What is the Future of Physical Bookshops and Bookstores in the face of Technology?
Last week on Wednesday, Amazon announced the closure of all its physical bookstores in addition to its small pop-up stores and 4-star location chains. This totaled 68 stores majority of which are in the United States of America.
Interestingly enough, the giant e-commerce conglomerate opened its first physical book store in Seattle in 2015. It looked unbelievable to a majority of people since the company has been accused of being the reason major bookstores suffered immensely since it started selling books online.
The truth is that some people are/were surprised to hear now that Amazon has been having physical bookstores for the last 6 years or so. We all associate Amazon with e-commerce yet it is believed that the opening of these stores was an experiment to get consumer purchase habits and trends which forms an integral part of the company’s strategy.
And now the announcement made last week on the closure of these stores begged the question of the future of physical bookstores that survived Amazon’s first wave of disruption. The effect of the disruption could be more felt in the US as opposed to countries such as Kenya, but does it mean things will always remain the way they are here at home?
The answer to the question raised in the preceding paragraph is a big no. Technology is fast catching up with us. When I joined university years back, the laptop was an option for us and thus, we resorted not to having one but we survived.
Today, having a laptop for most campus students is a must. It is not a matter of choice as it used to be back in the day or a point of luxury two decades ago. The line is already drawn that very soon, the laptop will completely replace the physical books in the classroom and lecture halls.
When I considered the E-library that I have in my computer visa vis the number of books I have in physical forms, it is over 200 times. If for example, I had 500 books in their physical forms, I wouldn’t have a place to put them unless I found a very big house.
Coming to think of the hassle of traveling to the physical bookstore to peruse through shelves to find my book of choice, and then it happens that maybe it is during the peak periods when schools are opening and all bookstores are filled to the brim, then I would rather shop online.
At the click of the button, the eCommerce site will give me the basic information I need to know about the book I would be interested in. It will also notify me if it is available and I can pay instantly for the book to be delivered to my place of convenience.
So, whether I am buying an e-book or ordering a physical book online, technology has simplified all that for us. Fintech as well has made it easier for us to pay seamlessly and thus the physical bookstore is slowly sinking into oblivion.
Maybe you are in Kenya and wondering whether the bookshops can be hit that hard by e-commerce as we are used to going to bookshops and bookstores physically. It is very possible. I read a LinkedIn post a while back where someone ordered exercise books from Nairobi, while in Mombasa and had them delivered successfully.
This means that even exercise books and pens for that matter can simply be ordered online. In terms of adult books and novels, the market has already suffered a big deal as the young generation somewhat prefers e-books more.
Slowly, the physical book store is being replaced by the e-bookstore and that is where the future is pointing us to. That is the future. As Amazon closes its physical bookstores, which accounted for about 3% of its revenues, it will continue to capitalize on e-commerce which is its main area of expertise.
Are you ready for the bookstore of the future if it has not already caught up with you?