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Monday, January 11, 2010

Why e-commerce matters to booksellers

I think I shared these numbers, but in a presentation from the London Book Fair day of digital education last year, the presenter from Bowker noted that in 2001 online sales of books were expected to never exceed 5%--ever. In 2008, Bowker reported that 23% of all book sales were happening online, making it now the largest channel for book sales. At the end of 2009 at least two sources are reporting to us that the number is now 39% of all book sales are happening online—a 16% increase in market share for the online channel in just 12 months. Our most recent student data says that the percentage of textbooks they are buying online (from the college store and other sources combined) is greater than that. Before we reach the end of 2010, one half of all book sales to consumers are expected to occur via a website or online transaction. (Note: hang tags in a college store do not count as an online transaction). On Christmas Day, e-books outsold printed books for the first time at Amazon. Not surprising given the number of those devices given for Christmas, but significant all the same. Some of our internal (i.e., proprietary data) suggest some related and interesting trends for online sales in higher education.

Forgive my bluntness, but it *IS* 2010. If you are a bookseller (collegiate or otherwise) and do not have a website capable of e-commerce transactions, do you really expect to be in business another decade? Can you afford to give up 10, 20, or 50% of your sales to online sources because you do not have an online capability? I could go on, but I am already breaking my New Year's resolution not to get on a soapbox for the 9th or 10th time. My point is, that if booksellers do not want to end up like other content industries being replaced by digital and new channels, they have to invest in the capabilities that allow them to participate in those channels. You have to go to where the customers are -- not expect them to stay with you because they always have. That world just is not our world anymore.

1 comment:

Stacy Waymire said...

Well stated Mark! Your soap box is okay with me :-)
There is an old saying that the three most important things in retail are location, location, location. Well now the custoemr IS the location, and the saying is more true than ever. And the three locations could be mobile device, computer, television. At CES is was clear that the 3 screens world is evaporationg, with content easily flowing between and among all three types of devidces: phone calls on your TV, sharing computer files on your phone, streaming video (classes?) on your computer.