Traditional book retailers under threat

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New research from global market intelligence firm Mintel says e-book options like the iPad and Kindle, the popularity of Amazon.com and even local libraries, pose significant threats to traditional book retailers.

Online book sites have cornered a significant slice of the market share that once belonged to traditional bookstores from 2007-2009, as they enjoyed a 7% increase in sales at the same time traditional retailers were hit with an almost 10% decrease, says Mintel. This disparity suggests that bookstore owners must act quickly if they want to maintain the upper hand on the book retail market.

“The lower costs of ordering through the internet, either for physical books or e-books, has attracted customers away from bookstores to the online channel,” said Billy Hulkower, senior technology analyst at Mintel. “Retailers need to focus on creating compelling reasons for patrons to visit bookstores, like concierge or recommendation services.”

Online book retailers

Amazon.com media sales saw an increase of $700m from 2007-2009, while 19% of individuals surveyed reported that they most often make new hardcover book purchases online.

“Online sites tend to offer books at lower prices, entice the consumer with free shipping deals and are seen by consumers as more convenient than visiting an actual bookstore,” said Hulkower.

E-books and e-readers

From 2007 to 2009, e-book sales soared, rising from $67m to $313m. On top of that, Mintel’s consumer survey revealed that 15% of book-buying adults plan to purchase an e-reader in the next six months. Though e-books and e-readers are still niche markets, they have strong future growth potential.

“E-reader sales will continue to increase and challenge physical book sales, both in traditional stores and online. We’re forecasting the segment to double in 2010 and nearly quadruple by 2014,” said Hulkower.

Libraries

Libraries are also starting to offer e-books. “With the ability to borrow e-books at libraries, there’s going to be a reduced need to buy books, no matter what the format,” said Hulkower.