Nearly 300 professionals held the 25th Congress of the Bookstore in Madrid, an event that immediately followed the recent Book Fair and during which they discussed the problems of the sector. These problems did not lead to the demise of the industry, as many had predicted, but they did highlight the need for reforms to make books more attractive and modernize the industry.
Among the main proposals, there is a general consensus that the sales channel should be mixed (physical and online). Likewise, a commitment to the bookshops union to increase the capacity to provide a competitive service and to maintain an acceptable level of online sales. It is in terms of infrastructure. On the supply side, a study on inefficiencies in the sector was presented, which shows that the high number of new titles prevents books from remaining in bookstores for the average time needed to be sold, and that, consequently, there is no increase in the rotation of titles but, on the contrary, their return.
The Todostuslibros.com platform will have new uses, according to its director, Jesus Trueba : “We have seen that bookstores think they can compete individually in the digital world. With the pandemic, many people started selling online and as there was an incredible increase in sales, partly due to the shift of the fixed customer base from the store to the virtual store, they thought it could be maintained , but the truth is that online trading tends more toward monopoly than physical trading. The idea is to provide platform-specific analysis of sales data, which will make booksellers realize that uniting through Todostuslibros.com will give them a lot more competitive advantage than what they can do individually, especially when they have small budgets”.
The rebirth of retail, the hybrid bookstore
Enrique Pascual Ponsof the Marcial Pons bookstore in Madrid and president of the capital’s Booksellers’ Guild, sees this clearly: “In new retail, the battle for value is won by global logistics and technology platforms. Salvation for many many stores therefore lies in the evolution of the pyramid towards value plus, which represents vectors such as identification, connection or social impact”.
Pascual Pons believes that “we must seek a balance between physical and digital, hybridization; the integration of all channels into a unified platform that improves the consumer experience; a technology that brings together data, metrics and even the profit and loss accounts, which makes it possible to extract information from the customers, but also the conversation with them”. The customer is looking for experiences and emotions.
In other words, any hybrid strategy must be based on three very solid vectors : a physical bookstore space, competent and motivated booksellers, and technology intended primarily to facilitate and amplify the work of the first two.
Faced with the evidence that “the book industry has been suffering for many years from serious inefficiencies due to the excess of novelties, the lifespan of books in bookstores is becoming shorter and shorter, with the resulting returns” . The consequence of all this is that the cultural, economic and environmental impact of this model is unacceptable and that the energy crisis will force it to change.
Juan Miguel Salvadorof the Diógenes bookstore in Alcalá de Henares, has proposed a sectoral pact which, among other things, provides for slowing down the pace, reducing the number of novelties (86% of titles sell less than 50 copies per year), promote quality over quantity, set a target for reducing returns, encourage bookstores to manage well, streamline transportation, and improve metadata.
The results of all these proposals will be visible in two years, when the next congress will be held in Pamplona.. In any case, the pessimism of a few years ago has given way to a certain realism, but which at least allows us to be confident that the book sector and those who live from its distribution and sale still have a long future ahead of them, provided they know how to adapt and come together to become stronger.