Home » Bookstores, Ebooks » No Big Hits, but Bookshops Say They’re Thriving

No Big Hits, but Bookshops Say They’re Thriving

18 December 2012

From The New York Times:

Last year, there was a clear winner among books for the holiday gift of choice: “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson. This year, despite a lineup of offerings from literary heavyweights, many of whom have commanded strong sales in the past, there has not been a breakout hit for the holiday season, booksellers say.

. . . .

While Bookscan does not include e-books and covers only roughly 75 percent of retail outlets, this year’s figures provide a snapshot of the fragmented holiday sales picture as a whole: independent bookstores report that a range of books are moving nicely, but there are mixed numbers from Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest book chain, and solid but not stellar growth in digital sales. Independent bookstore owners say they are thriving even without that surefire best seller because of a wide array of options this year.

. . . .

Peter Aaron, the owner of the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, said sales were up 15 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend and tracking well for December. In addition to “Building Stories,” he said other surprise sellers were “Dear Life,” by Alice Munro, and “Why Does the World Exist?,” by Jim Holt, a treatise that combines cosmology and philosophy. “It is not an easy book, but it is doing really well,” Mr. Aaron said.

. . . .

Small bookstores report that they are also benefiting from the popularity of Kobo e-readers, which were designed for independent bookstores and allow customers to buy e-books through the independents’ Web sites, as opposed to say, Amazon.

Steve Bercu, an owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., said sales were up 10 percent over last year. He said that shoppers were buying coffee-table books but were also snapping up Kobo devices.  “I was a naysayer,” he said, “but they are buying the actual devices, which surprised me.”

. . . .

Sales of digital books themselves are a more complicated equation. E-book sales are growing, but at a less rapid pace than in earlier years, said Madeline McIntosh, chief operating officer of Random House. Typically, the holiday spike in e-book sales starts on Christmas Day as people who receive digital readers for gifts begin loading their devices. But this year the post-Christmas picture is less clear, Ms. McIntosh said.

“We have some questions about the post-Christmas sales dynamic,” she said. “In the first years people were getting just e-readers. This year they will be getting multifunctional tablets. You can put a lot of other media besides e-books on these, and that may somewhat diminish the ultimate focus on e-books.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Bookstores, Ebooks

4 Comments to “No Big Hits, but Bookshops Say They’re Thriving”

  1. P.G.

    Susan went out to get a book for our outlaws yesterday. She left around 1000am and returned looking like she’d been dragged through five hedges backwards by a grizzly bear and a lunatic LA hairdresser.

    She’d only been to Barnes and Noble in Snellville, GA.

    Told me it was hell on earth, (which I thought was London.)


    • About 90% of this year’s Christmas purchases by the residents of Casa PG have been online, Brendan.

      I went to a bookstore to buy something I couldn’t buy online yesterday. I finally completed my purchase after being referred to a second bookstore and spending at least 30 minutes longer than it would have taken me to buy anything online.

    • I actually put the book I wanted to buy back on a shelf and walked out of a bookstore empty-handed last Saturday, because the lines at the cash register were so long and every other person wanted their books (often more than one) gift wrapped, which held up the already long lines even further, because the gift wrapping was done by the lady at the cash register. I’m not a fan of store-wrapped gifts anyway – they tend to scream “I feel obliged to buy something for you, but I can’t even be bothered to wrap it”. But why that bookstore couldn’t set up a separate gift wrapping station and hire a student to man it for four weeks, I have no idea.

      Yesterday my experience in another store of the same chain was a little better. The lines were long, too, and plenty of people wanted their books gift wrapped, but at least that store had a separate clerk to do the gift wrapping, so the line kept moving.

      Though I ordered all my book presents online, too. It’s better because I don’t have to run to five different stores to get the book I want. I still buy books in brick and mortar stores, but these days it’s mostly for browsing find and new books by bestselling authors that will be in stock no matter what.

  2. I believe the book market was barely tapped before digital happened.

    I love bookstores, but bookstores are inconvenient to use. First, you have to have a bookstore near you. Then, you have to drive to them, find parking, walk around the confusing lay-out of the store, and half the time they don’t have the book you want. Then, if you buy something, you have to lug the books out to your car, and they can be heavy. And if you are not of the middle or upper class, you may feel uncomfortable in some bookstores, which often have a more elite feeling to them.

    And don’t get me started on used bookstores.

    Book stores are great for browsers, but to supply a consumer with a product, they are not efficient.

    I predict the market for books will continue to explode exponentially. People have access to books in a way they never had before! People like books much more than I think the Industry realized.

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