Byte the Book – What’s the future of book selling in the digital age?

On Monday night we attended Byte the Book at the beautiful Ivy Club in Soho where Sam Missingham (Head of Events – HarperCollins) chaired a fantastic panel consisting of Julia Kingsford (Business Development & Consumer Insight Consultant – Valobox), Jon Woolcott (Buying and Marketing Director – Stanfords) and Simon Edwards (Owner – The Little Ripon Bookshop and BIC) where they explored the future of book selling in the digital age.

Sam Missingham kicked off the evening by quoting a sobering figure – indie bookshop numbers have now dipped below 1,000 since records began and asked of the panel what was going on to influence this trend. Julia, whilst not quite answering the question, brought home the key issues facing the publishing industry and booksellers today by taking a quick audience poll – who thought Amazon is destroying business and who also thinks Amazon does a brilliant job of their business. This highlights how even though we may not support Amazon, there is a strong lesson to be learned and the publishing industry is at a real turning point where they must be able to also create an innovative business model in order to continue to compete.

Simon countered this point by describing his experience as an independent bookshop owner in a small city by extolling the value they add, which in nature tends to be more intrinsic and something that digital retailers cannot match. He explained that the success of a small independent bookshop can in large part be related to their connection with the community and remaining at the heart.

Byte the Book 24.03.2014

Jon built upon both these ideas by explaining the strategy at Stanfords, a specialty travel and map bookshop with two locations and an online store. By making their business so specialised, they are able to reach out to a very niche group of customers and really make sure they are taking care of them, providing a tailored service whereas larger chains such as Waterstones and Amazon can become too busy and bogged down by all their different channels.

What was perhaps most interesting was when the conversation turned to looking towards the future and making predictions for how the book selling landscape would appear in 10 years time. Will there be a Netflix or Spotify for books? Sam questioned. Will Blinkbox be able to take on Amazon? Julia brought up their imminent launch into the book consumer eco-system.

All agreed that it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future will hold, but the general consensus of the panel was that even though we are a turning point, the next 10 years will not be so dissimilar to the present. Julia was perhaps the most optimistic with a message of hope – that in the future we will be able adapt content into whatever format necessary in order to be able to reach out to as many people possible.

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

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