US threat to publishers

Giant online bookstore expands to Britain

IN A MOVE that threatens UK book publishing and retailing, - the "Earth's biggest bookstore" - is expanding into Britain.

The online bookstore is to establish a British depot to serve Britain and other European countries. This will significantly reduce the delivery times and costs of books from and make internet book-selling even more competitive in this country.

"Jeff Bezos, our founder, is interested in shipping books as swiftly and as cheaply as possible. We are planning for an international expansion," said a company spokeswoman. currently lists 2.5m books, compared with the 150,000 to 200,000 stocked by a large British bookstore. It offers discounts of up to 40 per cent on American prices - which are already lower than their British equivalents.

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes currently sells for pounds 14.99 at Dillons in Kingston-on-Thames, London -'s price is pounds 8.50 ($14). discounts 400,000 books, cutting the price of paperbacks in the US market by 20 per cent and hardbacks by 30 per cent. Add in the generally higher cost of books here, and British buyers using the internet retailer stand to save 40 per cent on purchases.

The world's biggest online bookseller is enjoying phenomenal growth. Sales last year reached $148m, compared with $16m in 1996. Its customer accounts rose seven-fold to 1.5 million, and half its orders were repeats. "We intend to continue to invest aggressively in building our business and brand," said Mr Bezos.

Barnes & Noble, a bitter American rival of, has already announced it will be setting up a book depot for its internet service in Britain, after failing to find a superstore site in central London. Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookselling chain, has been engaged in a price war with and offers equally competitive discounts through the internet.

The online retailers threaten to change the British publishing industry. General publishers fear that and Barnes & Noble could undermine margins on British books. Imports of American books from Germany already pose a threat to the regional copyrights held by British publishers and sold by their authors. Territorial rights could ultimately become unsustainable, creating one world market for English-language books. The great beneficiaries would be multinational publishers such as Harpers & Collins, Bertelsmann and Penguin.

Janice Hughes, director of Spectrum Strategy Consultants, fears that online bookselling could cripple one of Britain's important creative industries. She says: "Internet retailing will bring the globalisation process to publishing. The global market does not care where a product is made, the only thing that matters is price. It will undermine the local book industry and its links to creative talent."

Internet use is soaring in Britain and clearly set to become a mass-market retail channel. According to NOP, 9m adults will have used the internet by next June and usage by women and the important young adult consumer groups is soaring.

The trend will receive a further boost when digital terrestrial television is introduced by Carlton at Christmas. This technology will ultimately make the internet, currently restricted to 1.5m personal computers, available to 22m domestic television sets.

Bookselling is proving to be one of the great retail successes of the internet. Customers clearly like the wide choice and the discounts. Mr Bezos said: "Businesses can do things on the Web that simply cannot be done any other way. We are changing the way people buy books."

Browsing an internet bookstore is a different experience to a physical bookstore. and Barnes & Noble have extremely attractive websites, which offer newspaper book reviews, interviews with authors, images of dust-jackets, chapter-long excerpts and readers' reactions.

Above all, they are the best way to find a specific book. Clive Bradley, the retiring chief executive of the Publishers' Association, said: "There is cause for the conventional bookshop to worry. Their great advantage is that they are excellent for searching for books."

This advantage has enabled plc, the British-based internet bookstore, to take off. Founded in 1993, the company, whose shares are traded on Ofex, claims to be Europe's largest internet bookseller. It offers only limited discounts and does not discount its list of best- sellers but has nevertheless seen soaring sales growth, recording 51,000 orders in the three months before Christmas.

Darryl Mattocks, managing director of, said: "We are slightly larger than a large city-centre bookseller. We will be much larger than that by the end of the year." Mr Mattocks expects to have to reduce prices once and Barnes & Noble start offering discounts on British books. "The internet is inherently a low-cost selling channel, with much lower costs."

The arrival of and Barnes & Noble in the UK comes at a time of upheaval in British book retailing. WH Smith is to sell its Waterstone's chain to EMI, which will merge the chain with its Dillons and HMV chains. Borders, the US book-selling giant, has acquired Books Etc for pounds 40m and is to open an American-style cultural superstore offering books, CDs, cake and coffee on a 39,000 sq ft site in London's Oxford Street this summer.

The high-street chains and the book publishers will come under considerable pressure if, as Mr Mattocks believes, online retailers force prices lower and take 15 per cent of the pounds 2.5bn British book market.

Publishers are just recovering from the abolition of the Net Book Agreement in 1995, which has not proved the disaster anticipated as higher sales have offset the lower book prices.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show spending on books rising sharply, and the advent of internet bookselling may not be bad news for all. The innovative marketing it brings could expand the book market even faster than is currently anticipated.

Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape