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Alternative Distribution Channels Stealthly Gain on Bookstores

In his article Minding The Store, Michael Norris claims Big Box and Specialty stores are more disruptive to book sellers now than the Internet was in the 1990s. He cites research from Simmons Market Research Bureau that 10 millino more consumers buy books in non-bookstore brick & mortar locations than use the Internet to procure their books.

Wow! That's staggering when you consider Amazon sells nearly 20% of all books in the United States, according to Dan Poynter.

How can this be? There are several reasons. First, most book buyers are disengaged. They only purchase one to five books a year, according to Simmons Market Research Bureau. The majority of adults read intermittently and are not loyal to bookstores (despite loyalty programs), web sites or special book buying incentives. For them, the Big Box or discount store is more convenient since, chances are, they spend more time there than in bookstores.

Second, pricing. Grocery stores, discount stores or Big Box stores often have the best selling books for sale on pallets at prices lower than some indpendent bookstores can buy them.

The most important channels of distribution are changing. Amazon, Walmart, Costco & Target carry more weight than the independent bookstores or the chain stores. Regardless of how this makes you feel, there is a lesson here. Publishers and authors should not overlook the importance of these new distribution channels.

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Comment by Bill Frank on August 22, 2009 at 4:46pm
Yes, they are buying in large quantities. it is both a blessing and curse to be selected to be a book at one of the big box stores. Discounts are deep and returns are possible (quite likely).

The bigger point is that more people buy books at these stores than do in traditional bookstores. Feel badly for the independent bookstore. They are going to have to reinvent themselves.
Comment by Stephen Rosenzweig on August 22, 2009 at 7:00am
They must be buying in large quantities.

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