One of the most commonly asked questions about Amazon and the world of retail is: “Did Amazon destroy bookstores?” Unfortunately, the answer is not as straightforward as it seems.
This guide will examine how Amazon and e-commerce have contributed to changing how consumers purchase books and try to determine if Amazon can be linked to the destruction of physical bookstores.
Did Amazon Destroy Bookstores In 2023?
Although many bookstores have closed because of the rise in popularity of e-commerce, Amazon is not the sole reason for their destruction. In fact, closures have more to do with changes in reading habits and rises in competition than anything else. By offering discounts and quick delivery, Amazon took away customers from bookstores.
To understand how Amazon has changed the world of retail book sales and determine if it contributed to the destruction of physical bookstores, read on!
Why Are Physical Bookstores Closing?
While we are all aware many physical bookstores have closed over the past few years, many disagree on the reason.
Often Amazon, in particular, is blamed for the closures. However, many think that this is because of factors other than just Amazon.
First, let’s start with what has happened to physical bookstores. Over 4,000 brick-and-mortar stores have closed in America alone since peaking in 2009.
Still, this number doesn’t include independent retailers who went out of business during this same period.
That said, these bookstore closings can be attributed to a few different reasons:
- Increased competition from online shopping: With the increase in online shopping, there are now more ways for people to buy books without ever having to enter a bookstore. As a result, physical bookstores are losing customers.
- Decreasing populations: Fewer people live within walking distance of a bookstore.
- Decreased demand for print media: Print books are gradually becoming less popular with readers, which means fewer sales at physical stores like Barnes & Noble or Borders Books. Furthermore, physical books make up only 20% of published content, whereas eBooks make up 60%.
- Physical stores are expensive to maintain, and they need to pay rent on their building, electricity, heat, etc.
- Physical stores require staff who need to be paid, which can often be quite costly.
- Physical stores cannot take advantage of economies of scale in the same way that e-commerce retailers can benefit from low distribution costs by distributing goods through the internet.
As you can see, there are many reasons these stores are closing down, and Amazon alone is not to blame.
Is Amazon Still A Bookstore?
While many of you may not remember, Jeff Bezos originally founded Amazon in his garage in 1995 as an online bookstore.
With that, often, readers went to Amazon’s website to find some of the most obscure titles unavailable at local bookstores.
By 1997, Amazon had grown large enough to begin trading on NASDAQ.
Since the early 2000s, Amazon has continued growing and entering into new industries like clothing, gaming, and grocery.
However, it has still held on to its base as a bookstore. Therefore, customers can access eBooks from Kindle products, have stories read to their children by Alexa, and even open physical bookstores in some locations!
Why Is Amazon Bad For Bookstores?
One of the main reasons Amazon is bad for bookstores is because it’s a retail giant.
Like other retail giants, Amazon has disrupted the entire world of retail, and many physical stores have closed because they can’t compete with Amazon.
Further, one of the significant reasons people shop on Amazon instead of other stores is convenience.
For example, people often purchase items without ever leaving their homes, saving them time and effort.
Additionally, it’s easy to compare products from one retailer to another by using the website’s search engine.
In the past, if someone wanted to buy a new book, they would have to go out into a crowded store that only sells books and find a staff member who knows about books in general or that book in particular.
Now, they can just type “new release ebook” into their computer and have access to millions of titles.
Moreover, people prefer buying books online because it feels like it costs less money than when you purchase an item in person.
For example, purchasing the same item might cost $0.99 less on Amazon than at a bookstore; this may not seem like much, but if you are buying an item every day, this adds up quickly!
During its early days, new visitors were drawn into Amazon by significant discounts and speedy delivery options.
As a result, by 1999, Amazon quickly began to take away sales from both mom and pop bookstores as well as big name-brand chains like Borders Bookstore.
Also, Amazon helped defuse controversies about its growing size and dominance by championing how it helps small businesses, which brought in third-party sellers.
However, a study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, research, and advocacy group, found marketplace sellers were required to pay Amazon $34 for every $100 in sales.
What Is Next For Bookstores?
It might feel like bookstores are on the decline, but they’ve seen a bit of growth in the past few years.
Between 2008 and 2015, their numbers have increased by 6%. Considering how many physical bookstores have closed over the last 15 years, this is significant.
For the most part, physical bookstores are still holding strong because people have not entirely lost the desire to buy tangible books that they can keep on their shelves at home rather than digital ones.
In addition, physical stores can give customers something they cannot get online—a personal touch and interaction with shop owners in real life.
While some people argue Amazon is bad for bookstores, others point to additional reasons for declining physical bookstores.
With the popularity of e-commerce, there have been substantial changes in retail. For example, today’s society is more interested in digital books than physical ones.
With that, e-commerce is growing within the industry and brings increased competition that threatens physical locations.
In conclusion, most will agree that the bookstore industry is changing, and it’s difficult to predict what will happen next.