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E-Commerce Can Blend with Indies

Some independent bookstores are taking to heart the old adage, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It may seem counter-intuitive, but technology and online sales - once seen as the death knell for independent bookstores - are actually proving to be a boon to the indies.

With everything from online sales to e-books to point of sale technology, independent bookstores are embracing high-tech and finding success in the process.

Online Sales

The retail giants do it, and independent bookstores are successfully selling print books online, too. It’s called omni-channel, and the method has been the difference maker for several independent bookstores. Far from losing the personal touch inherent to independent bookstores, these sellers are using online to foster new relationships. How are they doing it?

Some booksellers use the online promotion of pre-orders, in-store events, and personalized books to sell tickets that include in-store pickup of a print book. Others have found success with flat-rate 99-cent shipping. Without a minimum sale threshold for free shipping, buyers feel freer to make a purchase from the indies. The result is anywhere from 1 percent to 25 percent of sales coming from e-commerce.

IndieCommerce is a service available to ABA-member booksellers that gives them a seamless way to extend their brick-and-mortar sales online. The extension allows shoppers to search online to find books at their favorite local indie or “Buy Now” for online sales and shipping.

E-commerce has become so popular that once online-only retailers are setting up brick-and-mortar shops. They’re learning what independent bookstores have known all along: online is a great addition, but there’s just no substitute for a real-world experience.


Print book sales still make up the majority of book sales, but ebooks aren’t going away anytime soon. Kobo provides independent booksellers a way to serve the ebook needs of their customers without losing out on the sale. For ebook consumers, it’s a way to support their local indie and take advantage of the convenience of ebooks. Win-win!

A recent article in Tech Insider called the Kobo the “best value ereader on the market” and wrote of the benefits of the Kobo-supported ebook purchasing experience: “It’s a pleasure to go to local independent bookstores to hunt for books and then support that bookstore by buying the .EPUB directly from their website.”

Point of Sale Tech

Does your independent bookstore use shelf talkers? Some independent bookstores are using this promotional tool and adding QR codes to promote ebook sales and otherwise enhance the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. According to McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mi., the QR codes, e-books, and its IndieCommerce site all work synergistically, and the QR code lends itself to marketing beyond e-books.

At Shakespeare & Co. in Manhattan, their use of in-store tech is paying off big time. They have an Espresso Book Machine to print paperbacks on-demand and thus keep their on-hand inventory sustainable and profitability per square foot at an all-time high. Foyles in England equips staffers with tablets to help customers order online or check out without going to the register.

Ingram Can Help

Always have what your customers need so you never miss a sale. Ingram offers one of the world’s largest selections of books, efficient book ordering tools and global distribution. Find out how to capture every opportunity that comes your way here!