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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Textbook sales rise, room for growth persists

Students purchased 24% of their college texts online in 2005, said the The National Association of College Stores' Student Watch report. This number represents a significant increase (50%) over 2004 when NACS reported a 16% market share for online booksellers. A strong majority of students again reported that price was the strongest factor in deciding to buy online. (NACS press release)

This study represents a major victory for online booksellers. While we all have seen anecdotal evidence of this in our own sales, these industry wide numbers are always reassuring. It also underscores the importance of competition in the online book market. E-commerce, in many ways, is a great catalyst for increased competition - in any industry - but especially in bookselling. Many sellers, including myself at times, bemoan this fact, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the competitive nature of our industry is what makes it so strong.

Most importantly, this should be less a time for jubilation for listings services, and more a call to action. The industry should be pushing toward 50% growth, again in 2006 (a market share of 36%). Again, the key will be marketing. ABEBooks, perhaps offered the most innovative marketing campaign last year, while many other sites failed to innovate in their marketing college campuses and relied on the strength of the industry in general to bump their numbers. (See our archived article: Abe's Marketing Department Scores Big)