It is a truism that everything is changing very rapidly these days and especially so in the world of books and content. The role and relevance of bricks and mortar bookstores has become outdated. The pressure has been mounting for some years now on the traditional bookstore model and on retail in general.
What have been the main driving factors? Firstly e-readers have taken a big slice out of bookstore turnover and who can blame the public what with instant delivery wherever you are, and a choice of millions of books, many of them free. Secondly the practice of Showrooming must have made a difference too. Amazon now has a free App which allows one to scan any barcode and immediately give you the Amazon price for it, which of course is always cheaper because they do not pay the high rentals that Malls demand. The customer can order the item right there and then from their phone and get prompt and reliable delivery usually within two days.
As publishers we have been itching to get away from the need to supply bookstores because of the Sale or Return requirement (they essentially borrow our books), the large trade discount of 47.5% (which means that 52.5% has to cover the cost of everything else – printing, advertising, plus the cost of the courier to get that one book to them plus author royalties) and the endless problems in actually getting paid (sometimes months later). Now we are getting our wish because local (South African) bookstores have radically cut down on their approved vendors in an effort to cut costs. We and other small independent publishers are not on the list.
Authors and readers still want to know which bookstores will stock their book, but this is no longer happening. It is better by far for the author to sell their own book and make a profit at it by building up their own support base, both online and physically through workshops, lectures and other exposure. They are the trusted source for their specialty and who could be more passionate about their book?