The Internet has had an unintended, yet welcome, fallout. Reading, which has been on the decline for some years now, is gaining popularity again, thanks to online shopping. Well, we can probably add J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and Indian writers in English like Salman Rushdie, V S Naipaul, Arundhati Roy and Hari Kunzru to that ‘thank you’ list.
A research conducted by Internet & Mobile Association of India (earlier known as Internet & Online Association of India) along with Cross Tab Marketing Services reveals that books are one of the most popular categories among online shoppers.
According to the online survey of Internet shoppers and their buying habits, 41 per cent of the respondents had bought books online, while 44 per cent indicated that they were likely to buy them in the near future.
It’s easy to understand why books feature amongst the hottest selling items on the Internet. Unlike something like apparels or jewellery, books are not something buyers want to touch and feel before making a purchase. Most book buyers already know what they want to buy. And one the main of reasons is that demand for books is growing by leaps and bounds.
The metros continue to account for most of the online sales. Mumbai is the biggest market accounting for 25 per cent of online sales, followed by Delhi with 18 per cent, Bangalore with 8 per cent, Chennai with 6 per cent and Kolkata with 4 per cent.
However, for online bookstores, the action in the future may come from elsewhere. The survey found that quite a large number of buyers (38 per cent) came from smaller towns and cities like Hyderabad/Secunderabad, Lucknow and Jaipur. This may be because of the limited range offered by bookstores in these places.
The country’s publishing industry sells around Rs 3,000 crore (2004-05) worth of books today. Even though demand for books is growing, the retail trade hasn’t kept pace with this kind of growth.
Organised bookstores account for just 10 per cent of the market and almost 98 per cent distribute only English-language books. So, it’s hardly surprising that book lovers are turning to the Internet for their purchases.
Preeti Desai, President, Internet & Mobile Association of India, said, “Online book stores provide a huge range of books at a fractional cost that becomes difficult for the traditional neighbourhood bookstore to stock and sell. We will see a faster adoption of the Internet as a sales channel by not only large publishers and retailers, but also smaller publishers. This couldn't have been more evident with the latest Harry Potter release. Consumers who had pre-booked the books received them at home and did not have to queue up at the retail stores to pick up a copy. The stock was sold out before hitting the stores.”
She, however, lamented the fact that “The number of bookshops in the country is not enough to meet the true demand of books in India. While there are good bookshops in bigger cities, the same is not true for smaller cities. Hence, there lies an enormous opportunity for book-etailing. Price and selection are the key drivers for online used books sales, whilst critiques and person-to-person reference are drivers for recurring sales.”
With the growing use of easy search facility on the Internet, access to imported and non-stocked books from all over the world will also add to the popularity of purchasing books online.