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And you thought Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) was the best thing to happen to books since Gutenberg? The Booksellers’ Association last week published a paper (via FT.com) calling on its members to wake up and enter the digital realm: “While some major trade publishers are investing heavily in digitisation, too few booksellers, either chains or independents, have publicly articulated any digital strategy, let alone invested.” The association warns of the “destructive” threat from web companies. Indeed, if publishers are now geared up to sell e-books direct to consumers, booksellers face an acute disintermediation.
So the association’s blueprint calls on every bookshop to build a website that can be used as both a transaction point and a community notice board and to start selling digital content. It has a vision of the bookshop “as the essential information centre in the local community”, but the paper reads like a desperate plea to association members in the face of the rise not just of large chains like Amazon but of the wisdom of crowds – when recommendations and reviews formed by thousands of fellow buyers’ habits are easily at hand online, how can even the most knowledgeable of bookstore owner compete? And when their Booksellers’ Association is giving away its paper online for free but offering a printout for £20, who can they follow?