Spanish booksellers intent on their share of the digital market

Article  by  Mathilde RIMAUD  •  Published 19.06.2013  •  Updated 19.06.2013
[NEWS] Spanish booksellers are fighting the book market’s slump with an extensive program including an overhaul of the Todos tus libros platform, appeals to the government, a war against Amazon and much more.

In early June 2013 during the Madrid Book Fair, CEGAL, the Spanish booksellers' federation, announced the overhaul of its Todos tus libros platform and a newly signed partnership with tablet and digital content provider Tagus. Alongside these commercial steps, CEGAL president Juan Manuel Cruz Gálvez, echoing French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filipetti’s recent speech at a national booksellers’ gathering in Bordeaux, took this opportunity to affirm Spanish booksellers’ anger with Amazon; he called on the Spanish government to implement a “strategic plan in support of publishing and the independent bookseller network in order to guarantee the survival of quality publishing, fight the illegal downloading of digital content and defend authors, publishers, translators, illustrators and distributors.” Authors and publishers are voicing the same demands.
 
The sector is now focusing its efforts on digital publishing – and rightly so, given that while the book market has dropped by 40% since 2008, the digital book market is growing substantially, as seen in GFK’s March 2013 study. A number of online stores offer digital books: the major Spanish chains began investing in this market in 2009, ahead of the international giants, which got started in 2011. Kobo has signed an agreement with publishers, but has yet to do so with retailers. Now the time has come for independent booksellers to get organized in order to prevent their market share from slipping away. According to the French study Librairies dans le monde (bookstores around the world) published by Livres Hebdo during the Bordeaux booksellers’ gathering, e-books represented 2.6% of sales in Spain in 2011, and the “forecast in 2012 is a 15% market share at most for e-books in 2016”[+] Note“Estudio de la Economía Digital”, 2012, PWC, AMETIC, U-TAD, cit. in Librairies dans le monde, Allemagne, Espagne, Etats-Unis, France, Pays-Bas, Royaume-Uni, Cécile Moscovitz, Rüdiger Wischenbart, Livres Hebdo, Cercle de la Librairie, 2013, p. 43.@.X [1].
 
The major chains have proven to be innovative in this sector, as have a number of independent booksellers: e-book retail site Librerias con huella, for example, was created by four booksellers in four different cities (Oviedo, Santander, Malaga et Valladolid). The overhaul of the Todos tus libros platform to allow for the geolocation of over 700,000 titles and referrals to the websites or physical bookstores where purchases take place will now also allow for e-book sales (every bookseller will be able to incorporate e-book and e-reader sales into their own site and store). The agreement with Tagus, which, beyond its reading devices, offers the widest array of digital titles in Spain[+] NoteTagus offers 90,000 titles (51,000 under copyright and 39,000 copyright free, according to a search carried out on the website on June 10, 2013), with publishers having released 55,000 digital titles according to the Livres Hebdo study (op. cit. p. 43).X [2], is set to substantially spark digital sales for booksellers and help the domestic economy, as Tagus belongs to Casa del libro, Spain’s leading bookstore chain (36 stores, Planeta group). The incorporation of other CEGAL platforms (for children’s books, for bookseller recommendations) and improvement of the site’s overall interface should put it on par with international giants, and hopefully allow it to avoid the same fate as the now-defunct French 1001 Libraires. Todos tus libros is incorporating these new features little by little over the course of this gradual expansion process, and a social network for readers is all that seems to be missing at this point…
 
Nevertheless, the project announced by CEGAL goes beyond e-book sales to encompass an overarching shift in bookseller strategies. Representing 55% of the Spanish book market in terms of value, chains included[+] NoteLivres Hebdo study, op. cit. p. 48. X [3], booksellers are intent on reaffirming their importance to suppliers. The stance taken by the CEGAL president against Amazon is nothing new: in 2012, the Madrid Book Fair was also a stage for concerns about the American group, accused of not respecting the fixed price of books. This year, CEGAL called on Spanish publishers and distributors to “act firmly against those who systematically transgress the rules of the game.”
 
CEGAL is seeking to make its voice heard by publishers through the launch of a network-based sales database. Using its database, partially fueled by booksellers, CEGAL en red (CEGAL network) will allow for grouped feedback on sales, offering every member bookseller (300 for now, representing 18–20% of the market) information on their activity, contextualized within the Spanish bookseller landscape. CEGAL intends to be able to sell this wealth of anonymous information to suppliers. This tool, which recalls the economic observatory initiative being undertaken by the French booksellers’ union, took on an international scope in early June with CEGAL’s call for the participation of its Hispanophone counterparts around the world and the creation of a working group for the project’s internationalization. The service is set for launch in October and should be fully functional by January 2014.
 
Faced with the crisis rocking Spain, and thus, its book market[+] NoteAccording to the Livres Hebdo study, the dramatic slump in book turnover is due not only to the crisis, which explains the drop in bookstore outings and average purchases, but also to competition from Internet, overproduction, the drop in public purchases by libraries, illegal downloading (227 million illegal downloads in 2012) and the real estate bubble in big cities (op. cit. p. 54)X [4], Spanish booksellers are increasingly pooling their resources. A similar movement is occurring in a number of countries, as attested to in the Livres Hebdo study.
 
Translated from French by Sara Heft
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Photo Credit:
Cltn / Flickr
  • 1. “Estudio de la Economía Digital”, 2012, PWC, AMETIC, U-TAD, cit. in Librairies dans le monde, Allemagne, Espagne, Etats-Unis, France, Pays-Bas, Royaume-Uni, Cécile Moscovitz, Rüdiger Wischenbart, Livres Hebdo, Cercle de la Librairie, 2013, p. 43.@.
  • 2. Tagus offers 90,000 titles (51,000 under copyright and 39,000 copyright free, according to a search carried out on the website on June 10, 2013), with publishers having released 55,000 digital titles according to the Livres Hebdo study (op. cit. p. 43).
  • 3. Livres Hebdo study, op. cit. p. 48.
  • 4. According to the Livres Hebdo study, the dramatic slump in book turnover is due not only to the crisis, which explains the drop in bookstore outings and average purchases, but also to competition from Internet, overproduction, the drop in public purchases by libraries, illegal downloading (227 million illegal downloads in 2012) and the real estate bubble in big cities (op. cit. p. 54)
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