Paris ‘ Village Voice English Language Bookshop to close – can independent bookshops survive the Amazon onslaught?
Last week Publishing Perspectives reported that the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris is to close at the end of July: Closing of Paris’ Village Voice Bookshop Marks End of an Era
Naturally this has re-ignited the debate about the future of bricks and mortar independent bookshops selling English language books in non-English speaking countries.
I personally think it’s a real shame that the Paris Village Voice Bookshop is being forced to close but unfortunately I am not overly surprised.
For better or for worse, there is absolutely no doubt that increasing numbers of consumers are buying books online – whether physical books or eBooks, while Amazon is clearly the dominant player in the online English language book market.
The key success factors for an independent bricks and mortar bookshop are:
- Location, location and location;
- Quality of products, i.e. book selection; and
- Knowledge and experience of staff.
Unfortunately, whilst the Paris Village Voice meets these criteria, the relative niche nature of its market, i.e. selling English language books in Paris, means its volumes are not sufficient to mitigate for sales lost to Amazon and other online bookshops or to cover their (increasing) costs.
The fact is that the Internet enables you to address all of, and more, of these key success factors with much lower overheads than operating one or more physical stores.
A very good example of an “independent” retailer of an in-demand product which was very successful in the 1980s and 1990s because of their locations, quality of product selection and knowledge of staff was the wine retailer Oddbins. Essentially, the double whamy of the internet and supermarkets killed Oddbins off – they have lurched from one crisis to another over the last 10 years.
I’m afraid, I see much the same happening to “independent” bookshops – they too are being hit by the Internet and by supermarkets (in UK and USA at least) and will find it increasingly difficult to attract physical customers and sell sufficient volumes of books to cover their overheads, let alone make money. I wish them luck because they are, and should continue to be, an integral part of our cultural heritage but I fear the days of many hundreds of independent bookshops are numbered.
Of course, it does not help that most major continental European countries operate a fixed price cartel for physical books which makes them expensive relative to UK, US and of course online retailers such as Amazon and hence discourages purchases.
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