Are Bookshops Dying?

The bookshop. A paradoxical place that provides a public retreat for introverts, defined by the homely smell of books, comfortable silences, and the exciting prospect of picking a new favourite tale right off of the wall in front of you.

But is the bookshop as we know it fading, replaced by one-day-delivery clicks on Amazon, online second-hand retailers, and ebooks? Let’s look at the facts today.

Digital vs. Physical

The most obvious culprit in the potential decline of bookstores might be attributed to the rise of the Ebook format, and with that, the possibility of the paper copy that we know and love becoming obsolete. That’s a real arrow in the heart of book-lovers who enjoy the intimacy of being able to curl up with a physical copy and enjoy it in the quiet of their room. Well, good news; the physical book format is in fact not vanishing from existence. When e-commerce first climbed into the picture, it seemed that Ebooks were the future, however this trend actually declined in 2018, and now hardback and paperback sales have increased by 6.2%, and Ebook sales have declined by 3.9%. Why has the physical copy survived? Well, the quality of the experience has not been devalued by other emerging formats. Whilst setting up a Blu-Ray player is easier and yields higher quality results than a VHS, reading a paperback copy is not a reduced quality Ebook in any way. You can breathe a sigh of relief.


Whilst we’ve established that physical sales themselves are not in fact declining, this does not necessarily mean that these books are being plucked off of the shelves of actual bookstores, unfortunately. Online retailers are plentiful, with one of the leading players being Amazon. Amazon sells-on average- around 300 million print books a year in the USA, and in the UK, Amazon’s sales of print books amount to around 50% of all print sales. With the ease of searching and ordering almost any book title you can think of online, statistics such as these are not entirely surprising. Amazon are of course not the only player in the game either, there are a plethora of other online retailers that people buy from; Book Depository, AbeBooks and Alibris to name just a few. Don’t get us wrong, we love the ease of access that e-commerce provides book-lovers, however it seems to have pitted itself unintentionally against the bookshop as we know it.


The pandemic took quite the substantial bite out of numerous industries, which then proceeded to bleed revenue in the thousands. Sales of physical books actually rose during this time, however! To escape the harrowing situation and to will the mundanity away in lockdown, people turned to reading. In the United Kingdom, book sales rose by 5.2% from 2019-2020. Book stores were necessary in the supply and distribution of these, playing a huge role in the rise in sales.

Independent Bookshops

Whilst major bookshops- especially in the US- are seeing closures and are losing business, there has been a statistically proven rise in the interest in independent bookshops, with the younger-generation preferring to shop at indies due to a preference in purchasing physical books, a desire for interaction and in-store browsing.

So, are bookshops destined to be vacant husks, or sad relics of a simpler, bygone time? We don’t think so.

27 Jun 2023