Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can independent bookshops compete with the juggernauts?

By the juggernauts we don't mean mean Whitcoulls/Borders/Paper Plus - these are variety store chains which happen to sell books as part of their range of merchandise.

By juggernauts we mean the on-line biggies - among others, The Book Depository, Amazon, Tesco, Abe Books - which operate from overseas but because of their range, and often their discounts, are increasingly the first port of call for book lovers in NZ in respect of books published overseas.

As we observed last year, there are no bookshops in New Zealand which offer a good range of books published in NZ ... well, that is something they should do if they had any sense. They aren't many that try to specialise either, although there are some, for example in Wellington, Capital Books specialises in the subjects we do, Unity Books specialises in fiction, society and culture; and Parsons specialises in art and music. Often these three shops direct customers interested in these subjects to the others. Specialisation is again something all independents should do if they want to survive.

This article in The Daily Telegraph (UK) examines the issue in more depth. One thing that New Zealand does not experience much, unlike the UK, is discounting. The Warehouse has been known to pass on much of its massive discount from publishers (55% of the rrp) for hot new releases, and occasionally so does Whitcoulls, but otherwise most shops sell books at either the recommended price or above - as we have discovered to our surprise.

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