Books Front Matter

Do Amazon’s Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Mean Physical Books and Bookstores Are Thriving?

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It’s rather ironic that a key player in the demise of large bookstore chains is now focusing on that market. The opening of Amazon’s first New York City bookstore in May of this year marked its seventh bricks-and-mortar store in North America with plans for many more. Why is there a sudden shift to the physical — and what does it mean for book publishing industry insiders?

Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar experience

Remember when eReaders became the new big thing and everyone predicted the death of printed books? Or how the convenience of online shopping shook up the retail industry? It turns out the experience of browsing bookshelves and turning the pages of a physical book are still important to readers. But the Amazon Books stores are not your traditional bookstores. It’s more of a hybrid model that combines the giant’s online expertise with the experience and community that physical bookstores offer.

As Amazon Books Vice President Jennifer Cast explained in a CNBC interview, online shopping is about finding products shoppers are already aware of, whereas the bricks-and-mortar stores are all about the browsing experience and the excitement of discovery. If you visit one of Amazon’s stores, you’ll find books grouped by what is popular in a particular area or community and often displayed in groupings that are often recommended together in its online store.

amazon-books-shelvesThe number of books in these stores is limited because they are shelved with their covers facing out — rather than the spines. Browsing the shelves while using the Amazon app provides an enhanced experience that offers star ratings, reviews, pricing, and shipping options. Amazon Prime users receive discounts just as online members do, which drives membership. All books available in the physical stores have at least a 4-star review or are from best seller lists.

The resurgence of print and indie bookstores

According to the Association of American Publishers, in the first quarter of 2017, revenues for book publishers were $2.33 billion, a 4.9% increase over the first quarter of the previous year. Adult books and higher education course materials were responsible for much of that growth. Another factor is the popularity of graphic novels, standalone works published in visually appealing comic format, the next big “hit” since adult coloring books. They have surged in popularity as can be seen through the increase in comic-book-based feature films.

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Another somewhat surprising development is the resurgence of independent bookstores. The eReader appeared on the scene in 1998 amid speculation that it would be the death of print books and indie bookstores. However, according to the American Booksellers Association, the number of indie bookstores has increased by 27% since 2009. People obviously enjoy the experience of browsing bookstores, discovering gems and enjoying a cup of coffee in the company of other avid readers.

What this means for publishers

Amazon’s foray into bricks-and-mortar and the comeback of indie and neighborhood bookstores indicate that print books are alive and well. That’s good for publishers, both large and small. The continued proliferation of eBooks, self-publishing, and print-on-demand will likely require publishers to adapt their strategies and find ways to capitalize on these changes.

From print to eBooks and eCommerce, Sheridan has your book publishing needs covered. Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation.

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