In England, independent booksellers (nearly) rejoicing

Article  by  Mathilde RIMAUD  •  Published 05.07.2013  •  Updated 05.07.2013
Independent Booksellers Week
 [NEWS] In England, Independent Booksellers Week is proudly displaying the colors and values defended by these book resistance fighters. There’s a lesson to be taken from celebrating against all odds.

 Note« The UK Book Market », Nielsen, mars 2013, cité in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.103.X [1]
No, England’s independent booksellers are not doing better than all the rest. In fact, they doubtlessly have more fodder for complaint than their French counterparts.
 
According Livre Hebdo’s Libraires dans le monde study[+] NoteLibrairies dans le monde, Allemagne, Espagne, États-Unis, France, Pays-Bas, Royaume-Uni, a comparative study carried out by Cécile Moscovitz and Rüdiger Wischenbart, Livres Hebdo / Cercle de la librairie, June 2013. X [2], the number of booksellers that belong to the Booksellers Association dropped by 20% in six years, today reaching only 1,028 independent booksellers (-33% in seven years).
 
In 2011, these booksellers only represented 5% of market share in terms of value[+] NoteBooksellers Association, “UK Book Sales Retail 2008-2011” cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.101X [3] and 37.5% of them had turnover of less than 170,000 euros[+] Note“The UK Book Publishing Industry in Statistics 201”, cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.101X [4]. The end of book price regulation in 1995 and the strong rise of online sales reshaped the market landscape: in 2012, books were sold to customers at costs that were discounted from the recommended publisher’s price by 27.7% on average – the highest rate since 2003[+] Note"The UK Book Market”, Nielsen, March 2013, cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.103X [5]. Amazon’s monopolistic presence (having purchased Abebooks in 2008 and The Book Depository in 2011, its two main online sales competitors) has reinforced the feeling of cataclysm.
 
And yet against these odds, booksellers are not giving up. The “Indiebound” movement, born in the U.S. in 2008 and adopted in the U.K. and Ireland in 2009, brings together lovers of independence, providing a common identity for everyone who believe that an alternative exists in buying local, in order to build local economies and communities. This movement, which has also developed in Australia and New Zealand, and under the name “Buy local” in Germany, uses energetic communication campaigns to remind consumers that while booksellers don’t rely on discounts, they provide readers with something more (in addition to paying local taxes) – and motivate booksellers to focus on the heart of their trade. Publishers clearly support this movement. A recently introduced affiliation system allows booksellers to sell ebooks online as well as in their store via a dedicated platform.
 
In the United Kingdom, during Independent Booksellers Week (from June 29 to July 6, 2013), literary prizes are awarded to independent booksellers and National Reading Group Day is celebrated. British bookstores have furthermore developed another argument, even more political, using the campaign “Keep Books on the High Street”, which aims to keep booksellers in downtown neighborhoods. Faced with local taxes, lease increases and financial competition from Internet players, the campaign seeks to raise the awareness of elected officials on the importance of “bricks and mortar” shops, asking for supportive policies ranging from lower taxes for small businesses to parking fee exemptions for an hour or two, the strengthening of cultural activities in neighborhoods and more.
 
Does the recent success for U.S. independent booksellers, which American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher notably attributes to the Indiebound, foretell a similar situation for all booksellers? Citizen-led action is most certainly one strategy to bank upon.
 
Translated from French by Sara Heft
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Photo Credits:
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  • 2. Librairies dans le monde, Allemagne, Espagne, États-Unis, France, Pays-Bas, Royaume-Uni, a comparative study carried out by Cécile Moscovitz and Rüdiger Wischenbart, Livres Hebdo / Cercle de la librairie, June 2013.
  • 3. Booksellers Association, “UK Book Sales Retail 2008-2011” cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.101
  • 4. “The UK Book Publishing Industry in Statistics 201”, cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.101
  • 5. "The UK Book Market”, Nielsen, March 2013, cited in Librairies dans le monde, op. cit. p.103
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