Launching any new business is not easy. Just ask Del Boy. However, given that the world is currently in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, getting a new publishing company off the ground would seem to be harder now than it ever has been.
This is the situation Magic Cat found themselves in when they launched, which they spoke about at the Booksellers Children’s Conference 2020. In doing so they highlighted the success they have had with online sales, as the world went into lockdown and book shops were forced to close.
Speaking to the conference they laid out the unique challenges faced during the pandemic, and how they went about combatting them.
Not only was international travel and meeting all but impossible, bookshops were forced to shut, and any possibility of author events was extremely unlikely for many months.
Their story of launching during lockdown got me thinking about the lasting effect of the pandemic, and if it may have just been a booster to a trend that we have been told has been prevalent for a long time: the bookshop moving online.
For the last few years, really since the launch of Amazon, the bookshop has been dying, and the web is the one who killed it. The speakers at the conference seemed to echo this, with stories of strong online sales. Could it really be that covid is what finally tipped the balance?
For all the talk of the death of the high street, independent bookshops had actually begun growing again pre-lockdown, and physical book sales grew as well. These signs are encouraging if we want to continue to live in a world that is not solely Amazon and e-books.
As long as there were people that would go to them, it seemed that independent bookshops would always survive. They could exist as oases in the desert of Amazon’s seemingly exponential growth
But that was then, and with the enforced closure of all retail spaces, even some independent stores are finding ways to carve out space online.
Bookshop, a web service that gives buyers the option to support a specific book shop or have their money go in to a pool that supports many independent shops has seen huge growth over lockdown, with its founder telling Wired magazine that even if sales half when shops reopen they will still be in the top 10 bookshops in America.
While still only a fraction of the market when compared with the really big online retailers, it is nice to see an alternative arrive, and I for one hope that its growth and support of independent book shops continues for many years.
Maybe then covid will not hasten the death of the independent bookshop, but simply create on the internet the same relationships that has always existed between big corporate sellers and independents.