4 Marketing Lessons for World Book Day

Over the past few years, the book industry has faced uncertain times. The shift towards ereaders has disrupted its traditions.

Things are starting to settle down though. In 2014, ereader sales started to drop and printed book sales started to level off. This year could see the print book market reverse the drop by starting to grow again – this January has already seen a 3.5% increase compared to the same period last year.

Ereaders are changing our habits.  Ebook sales hit their highest peak in the first two quarters of the year when we spend our festive gifts certificates and download for holidays. Print books tend to hit their peak in the last quarter when we make our Christmas lists, though even this trend is starting to wane.

World Book Day has made me think about how we got to this point in the book industry. This is a challenging sector – booksellers (both chain and independent) must compete against Amazon in price, service and innovation. What lessons can marketers learn from it?

Lesson 1: Evolve

Sticking with the same cycle will make you complacent and vulnerable. Even if it’s working, look to develop other techniques or offers that customers want and need.

The ebook revolution has been driven by Amazon. They invested in the technology and developed an outstanding product. This is fundamental marketing and they executed it brilliantly.

However, there was nothing to stop book shops and publishers from developing the same product. Sony had already developed it and the overall trend was moving towards portable mobile devices.

We are all guilty of resting on our laurels and doing the same thing year in, year out. For many years the book industry did – put out an expensive hardback, into paperback six months later, release celebrity autobiographies and cookbooks for Christmas. It was not aligned to customer needs and what customers wanted was a more convenient way to read and buy books.

Just because something is working well and always has doesn’t mean you should stick with it. Keep pushing to improve it and this often means being brave and staking out new ground.

Lesson 2: Think local even if you are a national brand

Want customer loyalty and appreciation? Tailor your choice to what your local audience want and give them expert advice.

In the US where ebook sales are rising, so are new independent bookshops, which are seen as being community hubs. People recognise and enjoy the value that local booksellers have both in advice and choice.

In the UK we have James Daunt who has changed the way Waterstones ran since he took it over. Gone are the three-for-two offers and, controversially, no more promotional payments from publishers. Accepting these meant that all stores had to position the book in the same place but as Daunt says “books that might work in Kensington might not work in Blackpool.”

Daunt has brought an independent book shop spirit to a chain – this spirit is one that has a local feel and people like it.

Lesson 3: Don’t forget the customer experience

Ebooks can’t replace the experience of walking into a book shop, talking to the staff, touching the books and ah, that new book smell.

This is where the printed book still pulls me in and has lead me back to buying printed books. The Kindle is not abandoned but I missed paper and sharing books with people after I read them.

The “experience” is powerful and valuable. In changing industries, think about how you can retain and adapt it to trends, and new products and services.

Lesson 4: Don’t make me choose between formats

What I would like to see is publishers offering printed and ebooks as bundles. Why are they separate? Why do these formats have to be in opposition? I personally would be happy to pay a fair price at a bookshop for both.

Amazon launched Matchbook in the US where customers can purchase digital versions of their print books at different price points. This is not available in the UK. Some publishers have tried it, e.g. Harper Collins and Foyles have partnered together on titles, but it is not widely available (I would love to hear from any publishers that are doing it).

The format customers want depends on their situation. Today that format is mobile and portable. Make it easy for your customers to consume the content, product or service you are delivering. Remove any barriers such as making them buy separate versions of the same item.

MintTwist Staff Picks for World Book Day

Not sure what to pick up next? We’ve got recommendations for you!

Juan’s pick


The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

Asimov’s extreme idea on how technology/AI/humanity will advance from semi present day to billions of years into the future.

Available in Assimov short story collections or here.

Mark’s pick


They’re Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson

The dialogue of two characters who are capable of travelling faster than light.

Available in the short story collection Bears Discover Fire and here.

Rosemary’s pick


One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard Brandt

How Amazon succeeded and changed how we buy books.

Available from all online and physical bookshops.

Lee’s pick


Manna by Marshall Brain

A short story based around artificial intelligence and automation.

Available free online.

Colin’s pick


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Set in 2044 where people escape reality by plugging into OASIS, a virtual utopia.

Available from all online and physical bookshops.

Victoria’s pick


Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Written when Shelley was 18 after a nightmare, its themes around ethics in science, love and rejection still ring true today.

Available from all online and physical bookshops.

Why not share your favourite read with us?

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