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BEA 2014: Can Anyone Compete with Amazon?


First published on www.publishersweekly.com

With Amazon’s Tuesday evening blog post claiming the company does not expect its dispute with the Hachette Book Group to end any time soon, the standoff between the e-tailer and one of its vendors is once again showing how much leverage the online giant enjoys in the book marketplace. As the Amazon-Hachette showdown continues to dominate talk at BookExpo America this week, many industry insiders are wondering whether any retail player can challenge Amazon’s dominance.

Research conducted in March by the Codex Group found that in the month Amazon’s share of new book unit purchases was 41%, dominating 65% of all online new book units, print and digital. The company achieved that percentage by not only being the largest channel for e-books, where it had a 67% market share in March, but also by having a commanding slice of the sale of print books online, where its share in March was estimated at 64%.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the only two book outlets that have a meaningful share of both the e-book and print markets, assets that are becoming increasingly important as book buyers turn more and more to online channels to purchase books. According to the newest figures from Nielsen Market Research, online outlets accounted for 41% of book purchases in 2013, while bookstore chains accounted for 22%.

While all bricks-and-mortar stores still sell more books than online retailers, the trend, despite the slowdown in the growth of e-books, continues to move in favor of online sales. In part, that is due to the growing share of print book sales that are now online. Additional research from Nielsen shows that e-commerce channels commanded almost the same percentage of unit sales of hardcovers and trade paperbacks as the bookstore chains in 2013.

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