Books have been remaining a marketable product for centuries. And that’s never gonna change despite the current digital disruption. Moreover, the internet has created new opportunities for booksellers. It was clear from the very beginning that books would occupy a certain niche in e-commerce because of their inherent properties.
Handy format, unlimited shelf-life, reasonable delivery cost, creatable digital replicas, and ever-present bestselling authors all allow the bookselling industry to keep developing. Once books remain in sustainable demand, online entrepreneurs always have an opportunity to establish another profitable e-commerce business.
We are going to share valuable insights on how to create an online book store either from scratch or on Magento/Shopware platforms. This step-by-step guidance represents all necessary info beginning from the encouraging considerations on the viability of online bookselling and up to the structure of a cost-effective website of your new book e-store.
Book Market Characteristics and Challenges
Book business starts from the analysis of the market, like any business, and a basic understanding of what an online book store is. Does establishing a book store make any commercial sense in these days of digital? Do people keep buying paper books amid the emerging e-book/audiobook market? Is the recent lockdown a final verdict on the booksellers? Let’s explore the issues one by one.
Book market size
Contrary to quite explainable fears, the book market is staying sustainably afloat. According to stats, the global book market is reaching $92.6 billion in 2021 to show a growth rate of 5.4% annually. It is expected to hit $104.21 billion in 2025. As we can see, the impact of COVID-19 has not appeared fatal for the bookselling business around the world. People are buying books and will continue to do so definitely. At the same time, the book market is transforming to have a different balance between physical copies and e-books nowadays.
E-books seem to dominate
Both the total digitization of our routines and pandemic restrictions create new trends in the book market. The emerging popularity of e-books is heading the trends. The convenience of digital copies is obvious for those who keep gadgets in their hands day and night. For all of us, to be fair. This is explainable, therefore, why the share of paper books is steadily decreasing (about -2.8% annually) while e-book sales are growing. The e-book market forecast optimistically predicts 11.7% growth between 2021 and 2030.
Paper books will never die
Despite e-books seem to keep advancing, physical books can unlikely disappear from our shelves at all. But some changes in the paper book market are available due to competition with digital copies. The financial rationale makes publishers widely adopt such a trend as print-on-demand. Mass production of paper books is becoming reasonable only for bestsellers and educational literature. Print-on-demand allows publishers not to freeze their working capital for long-term investments with unpredictable profits.
Another new trend is personalized books that can be printed in very limited editions. Personalized texts and customized illustrations constitute the content of such books created for a certain reader personally. This is a perfect gift for any booklover. Besides, the books resonate well with the global marketing trend of personalization of whatever.
Hence, new paper books will keep appearing on the market one way or another even if their print runs seem to be smaller than in the past.
Contemporary book market challenges
Publishers and booksellers have to evolve to prevent the book market from becoming too obsolete and unresponsive to the expectations of modern readers. The book market players are facing many specific challenges. Some challenges are going to become long-lasting threats, the other ones are sudden and seem to go away when their causes disappear on their own.
Pandemic-caused social distancing
Similar to other physical products, books have appeared before certain psychological barriers that emerged due to the recent COVID pandemic. Many people are afraid of getting infected by the virus through physical objects including paper books. There is hardly anyone who can affirm unequivocally how reasonable such fear is. Anyhow, booksellers have to consider it when they sell books from hand to hand in brick-&-mortar book stores.
Touchless payments along with door-to-door deliveries seem to be able to help mitigate such a challenge in a paper book trade. Besides, the recurrent lockdowns that make many people stay at home are indirectly encouraging booksellers to establish online book stores. The challenge promises to disappear when the world comes back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. However, the already developed habit to buy goods online can prevent many people from visiting brick-&-mortar book stores again.
Piracy affects the way modern readers consume content today. Many internet users are tempted to download pirated copies of books leaving their authors and publishers without legal profits.
This problem affects the sellers of paper books not less than e-book distributors. When a single paper copy is scanned and uploaded on the internet for free, the entire print run appears under the risk of remaining unsold.
To meet the challenge publishers and booksellers should arrange wider promotional campaigns to inform potential audiences where to buy legal copies with ease. Modern technical means are to the rescue: shareable links, QR codes, email newsletters, etc. Besides, such marketing approaches as lotteries, awarding distributions, autographed copies, and the like can help readers ignore pirated copies.
This new format of books is here to stay whether publishers like it or not. This is a sign of the zeitgeist: people have to consume content on the go trying to keep pace with the accelerating day-to-day routines. Authors, publishers, and booksellers should adopt the audiobook format as another channel to reach their audiences. It is worth making an audio version of every book as an optional by-product that is available along with other formats.
An additional business opportunity instead of a paper books’ competitor is what an audiobook should be accepted as. Also, it is worth remembering that audio copies are usually released after the paper originals appear on the market. The priority of text versions is traditional. Besides, releasing a decent audiobook is not a simple thing to do: it requires professional actors for reading, skilled sound engineers for editing, and expensive studio equipment for recording.
Truly popular books can have their audio versions only. In addition, non-fiction books along with specialized literature appear in an audio format very rarely: you can hardly find an audio version of a higher math textbook even if you try hard. Even though audiobooks are a certain challenge for the conventional book market, they should not be another matter of concern for the online book store owners.
New reading habits
The internet, smartphones, tablets, e-readers are the technical innovations that have changed our reading habits very significantly. People do not need to buy paper books to find such sorts of content as articles, posts, blogs, photos, etc. E-books and audiobooks add fuel to fire.
At the same time, reading from a screen can be exhausting however advanced your monitor is. It may seem that publishers and booksellers get caught in the middle. However, the challenge is solvable with some additional services that help readers consume content easier.
Blinklist and Instaread are examples of the services that allow finding a new approach to a broader readers audience. Reviews and summaries uploaded on such services help readers realize whether one or another book meets their expectations. Besides, brief info about each new book can keep the audience aware of the book market updates.
Instead of fighting against new reading habits, publishers and booksellers should participate in the promotion of books via online services where book summaries appear to be another vehicle of sales.
Every book has its particular reader audience. Even though authors expect their books to be read by as many people as possible, no book acceptable by everyone is known in history. At the same time, exploring the target audience can bring many surprises to booksellers. Nothing prevents financial analysts from looking for a fantasy saga as well as Harry Potter fans can search for books about finance.
Research and cross-promotion can help booksellers figure out the right audience for every book. This is the customer assistance the booksellers should provide to avoid ignoring those potential readers who either have skipped the desired book accidentally or have no time to get involved in a thorough search.
Customization is a mantra for modern marketers not for nothing. People expect personalized approaches from every service provider today. The stronger the effort you make in serving your customers with individual book promotions the fewer the readers remain alienated from your target audience.
Competition in the book market is becoming more fierce because of various reasons. One of the specific ones is better accessibility of the business tools and approaches that can be applied to the contemporary bookselling sector. E-commerce solutions are the mechanism that can bring booksellers to the next level. And they do.
Online book stores significantly increase the visibility of books and authors. As a result, no exclusive content remains to let a particular bookseller receive a guaranteed profit. The number of book stores can grow faster than the number of new books on the market. Hence, both online and offline booksellers have to invent their methods to catch a piece of the pie amid almost the same range of books they all offer.
If both you and your competitor have the same product to offer, what can be a decisive factor for your common customer audience? Any exclusive rights for certain books don’t count - they work only in isolated situations without having any effect on the competition on the entire book market.
To win the battle, the lower price and better customer experience are remaining to achieve, therefore. Hence, well-designed functionalities along with proactive customer-centric services can allow your online book store to leave competitors behind.
Book Market Trends
Since the book market keeps evolving, some major trends have to be formed along the process. Every online book store owner should know the trends to feel the way where the wind is blowing. Missing new opportunities to occupy a certain niche is hardly a good strategy for any business, bookselling is no exception.
The demand for both e-books and audiobooks is to grow. We have already mentioned e-books and audiobooks as a challenge for the book market. And they are, but this is a very promising trend at the same time. Offering e-books/audiobooks along with paper copies can be a powerful promotional tool for authors, publishers, and booksellers. Digital developments to create and launch electronic versions of books are available. One of Amazon's branches ACX, for example, offers listing audio files on the largest digital marketplaces such as Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. No doubt that Amazon, which controls about 50% of the e-book market, does it for a reason. Digital content seems to become a supplementing factor for paper books, not a competing one.
Book summary projects are emerging. As we have mentioned above, reviews and summaries imply a good appetizer for readers who are looking for new books. Popular summary platforms such as Blinklist and MentorBox are going even further while transforming their collaboration with authors into online courses. They are creating the all-around-books industry with relevant video and audio content. Inducing the interest in new products is a well-tested marketing ploy, why not use it in bookselling via summary websites?
Tech innovations provide competitive advantages. Even though many experts are still skeptical about the capabilities of artificial intelligence in creating fiction literature, the technology is widely used in plagiarism check, content classification, and digital marketing. Efficient tracking of consumer behavior is another area where AI can bring a lot of benefits to publishers and booksellers. Additionally, AR technologies can be used at an online comic book store. Social media provides many promotional opportunities to the book market players. Bookstagrammers create a special environment for book nerds: why not involve social media influencers in your business development? BookTube is another tech-driven approach to the engagement of book lovers via watching relevant video content. #Booktok, in turn, helps cover the multi-million audience of tiktokers with book-centric topics.
Self-publishing is becoming an ideal launch pad for new authors. The trend starts covering not pure amateurs only. Many authors who have already published their books via conventional publishing houses are turning towards self-publishing as well. Self-publishing promises wider freedom for authors through better control over various aspects such as visual designing, packaging, marketing, etc. Dedicated tech platforms such as Wattpad propose another self-publishing opportunity when storytellers get a chance to figure out the readers’ interest in their books by receiving online feedback from the audience.
Independent publishers are gaining momentum. The book market giants are making the rules which appear to be draconian for many authors and booksellers. Small independent publishers, on the contrary, do their best to attract new partners with much liberal terms and conditions. They provide a wider variety of literature from a more diverse community of authors. Such a strategy is bearing fruit: having only 14 employees Wolfpack Publishing, for instance, appeared the fastest-growing independent publisher in the US in 2018-2020 with about 300% growth of sales. It is, therefore, no surprise that many bestselling authors prefer collaborating with publishers from the fast-growing small publisher list.
History of Amazon: From Books to Everything
Most probably you know that the world’s biggest internet-based company has started as a bookseller. The inspiring history of Amazon proves that the way towards the richest one-stop-shop can begin from an online website that was considered a cheap online store to buy books.
It was a reasonable decision to sell books when Jeff Bezos registered Amazon.com in 1994. A convenient size, unlimited expiry date, easy packaging and distribution, variety of publishers, and almost infinite consumer audience all make books an easy-to-sell product with which the online retailer business is worth starting.
What made Amazon not get lost among other online retailers back then? There were a couple of reasons for it:
Amazon started providing a global door-to-door delivery service that was revolutionary those days.
Jeff Bezos appeared to be a very ambitious entrepreneur who did not plan to limit his business by books only.
Since 1998, Amazon has started to offer computer games and music. In the 2000s, Amazon expanded its product range with consumer electronics, video games, toys, home-improvement items, and software. Make note that betting on digital products was hardly an easy-to-achieve epiphany in the days when not everyone kept a smartphone in a pocket and the global internet coverage left much to be desired.
Later on, Amazon turned to a tech company with the launched Amazon Web Services such as Elastic Compute Cloud and Simple Storage Service.
The first Amazon Kindle e-reader saw the light in 2007 to occupy 50% of the Android tablet market in 2012. Amazon Publishing Service appeared in 2011 to make the e-book distribution outperform paper book sales very soon.
Tech innovations have always been at the center of everything Jeff Bezos was doing to develop his business. Drone delivery, Amazon’s airport, and the latest achievements in the spacecraft industry with Blue Origin just prove the rule: keep pace with tech progress if you seek true success in modern business.
At the same time, everyone has a chance to replicate the way of Amazon while starting a retail business from an online book store.
How to Get Ahead in the Global Book Market?
E-commerce as such has some strategic principles to proceed with. No matter whether you sell paper books or e-books, the online commerce practice covers them both. Every bookseller is to follow the marketing approaches that have been already tested by successful authors, publishers, and booksellers.
They can hardly give you a detailed A-Z tutorial on how to thrive in the bookselling business. “A finger pointing to the Moon is not the Moon itself” as the ancient Chinese used to say. But their advice shows the right paths to go for every beginner who appears able to recognize a clear promise in the online bookselling activity.
Promotion goes first
This principle works equally well for both authors and booksellers. As Stephen Spatz, President of Bookbaby says: “80% of successful authors started marketing their books before they began writing”. In other words, the old concept “demand creates supply” still keeps working.
It is crucial to figure out what narratives your readers are ready to pay for. Give them brief descriptions, summaries, and reviews to get their feedback. Focus on what induces the biggest interest of your audience. Continuously collaborate with your customers in this regard: your financial success directly depends on how you avoid wishful thinking about the marketability of one or another book you offer.
Don’t be afraid to appear intrusive
Authors, social media influencers, bloggers, vloggers, book reviewers, and other key persons capable of impacting your audience’s opinion are the ones to whom you should not be afraid to make cold calls for support and assistance. Consider what service you could propose to them in exchange for their “good word” about your book store.
Use all channels of content marketing
Whatever available is in content marketing should work for your online book store. Explore your target audience and create targeted SMS campaigns. Post various articles in your website blog at least twice a week: summaries on new books provide a good vehicle of sales as we have mentioned earlier. Even a brief video interview with an author published on your YouTube channel can generate explosive traffic to your website. No effort must be spared to make your internet presence as wide as possible.
Remember about the primacy of your website
Never be dependent on any platform beyond your online book store. Do what you can to drive traffic to your website via social networks while keeping in mind one simple thing: your internet presence remains vulnerable and even ephemeral if you focus on the web resources that are out of your ownership.
Social media platforms can be convenient and effective channels for your business promotion. And they are, undoubtedly. But they all belong to other people and protect their business interests at the end of the day. They have their own rules and policies that can be changed arbitrarily at any moment. Use the other people's websites and social platforms as soon as they are available but your book store must be the only true point of gravitation for your audience.
How to Build an Online Book Store on Magento and Shopware
If you are still reading this article, you are likely ripe for making your online book store appear sooner rather than later. You know what the global book market is, you are aware of the challenges the modern booksellers face, approaches and trends of the current online bookselling are not alienated from you anymore, and you are ready to get to the marketing and promotion as soon as your website starts working.
The only remaining question seems to be how to sell new books online or how to build an online used book store. We believe that both Magento and Shopware are the most appropriate e-commerce platforms for such a purpose. And here is why.
Basic Magento/Shopware functionality for an online book store
Both Magento and Shopware have large communities of creators and supporters. Common logic suggests that the combined expertise of such a huge number of professionals can provide almost an ideal functionality that any e-commerce platform might imply. Few custom solutions to design an online book store could offer something more viable and user-friendly.
Even basic configurations of either Magento or Shopware can cover the requirements of the majority of online booksellers. Numerous third-party extensions can expand the functionality significantly if necessary. The following website architecture appears almost by default if you build an online book store with Magento/Shopware:
Home page. This is from where your customers start their journey over your online book store. The design is up to your creativity while the structure is offered by Magento/Shopware with uncompromised functionality. Numerous configurations of the home page are available along with an opportunity to tailor it precisely to the specific character of your book business whether it is an online book store for kids or an academic literature portal.
Product catalog. This section of your online book store reveals your entire proposition to the readers. Some essential details of the books you offer are indicated there: a cover’s picture, summary, size, price, author’s data, and the like. This is an interactive list of books that forwards your readers to the detailed product page of each item.
Product detail page. Whatever info about a certain book you'd like to provide your readers with is represented on this page. Reviews, readers’ feedback, shipping info, price & coupons, all are on the page to lead your readers to purchases. And they can do it right here since the “add to cart” button is available.
E-book option. An electronic version of a book (if available) can be purchased by your readers via this option (available in Magento by default, can be added to Shopware via a corresponding extension).
Cart and checkout. This section provides a smooth checkout flow via all necessary steps your readers have to proceed through to purchase the cart. Both shipping services and payment gateways can be integrated here according to your preferences.
Login/Personal profile. A brief but sufficient amount of personal details allows your customers to personalize their user experience on your online book store. At the same time, the info helps you build a direct channel of communication with your audience for promotion campaigns that strengthen a retention rate.
The above-mentioned functionality relates to your online book store visitors. There is another layer of your website which is dedicated to admin functions. This is what Magento and Shopware offer in this regard:
Order management. Everything necessary to manage orders is available here: changing the order status, sending info to users, creating invoices, arranging shipment, making personalized offers, and the like.
Product management. This feature allows you to manage the catalog and product pages in the way you need: add/delete books, amend info, create new categories, update prices, in other words, do what you want with the product range of your online book store.
Content management. All sorts of content available on the entire website can be managed via this feature: adding new pages, editing the existing ones, etc. No assistance from programmers is needed, by the way.
Customer management. The feature provides admins with detailed info about all registered users to track their customer behavior. It helps you make necessary changes in your online book store to meet your audience’s expectations best.
Settings & configuration. Both Magento and Shopware provide a great variety of out-of-the-box settings and configurations that help you adjust your online book store according to your individual needs. Improve your workflow by yourself with no developers to be involved.
Price conditions. You can create special price conditions for certain customers or groups of customers. It can work in an automated mode with no manual procedures.
Popular e-commerce extensions for your book store on Magento
Third-party extensions help avoid reinventing the wheel: they provide you with functionalities that have appeared in demand before you start feeling that such functionalities would be great to add to your e-commerce solution. Magento contains a lot of such “pieces of business epiphany” created by experienced developers for online book store owners.
The extension provides new book store visitors with useful guidance over the entire product range. The corresponding product labels help understand which books are new, which ones are best-selling, which items go under special promotional campaigns, etc. The solution gives you a ready-to-use tool to classify your books conveniently one-stop-shop while your audience is gaining a better user experience.
This is both a good manner and a fruitful marketing strategy to offer discounts to the customers who order their first books from your online book store. In general, various promotional coupons work well in attracting new customers, but the first order discount is always very special. The extension provides your online book store with the enhanced functionality to transform random visitors into regular customers.
Loyalty programs with reward points constitute one of the most efficient methods of maintaining high retention rates in e-commerce. The extension helps create various reward points programs that incentivize both newcomers and regular customers to achieve various goals determined by your promotion campaigns. This results in increased sales while your loyal customers keep feeling that you appreciate them very much.
The extension informs your customers about the exact location of the brick-&-mortar book stores nearby. Besides, some additional information about the stores is provided to improve the customer experience of your clients.
Popular e-commerce extensions for your book store on Shopware
Shopware keeps pace with Magento in third-party extensions created by professionals for making your online book store more productive.
The extension allows creating product labels and badges with custom colors, texts, and images. It is possible to assign labels to particular books and vice versa. Both in-stock and out-of-stock books can be labeled either in your catalog or on each particular product page. This is the effortless way of assisting your customers in their search over your online book store.
The extension allows your customers to gain rewards for sharing your online book store’s link with their friends and followers. Let your customers become your promoters to expand your customer audience. The discount codes available in the link help both regular customers and newcomers benefit from your referral program.
This plugin uses Google’s Geocoding API to provide your customers with a search engine capable of finding exact coordinates of all available brick-&-mortar book stores from your chain. Besides, the plugin helps you manage and schedule multiple book stores through the new type of shopping experience capabilities.
ESD (electronic software delivery) provides customers with a secure way of receiving digital content protected with copyrights. The Digital Products & Downloads application can mark the digital content offered by your online book store as ESD products while providing secure downloads of the files. This is especially useful for online book stores where e-books and audiobooks are available.
Custom feature development for your online book store
Since our experts have a huge experience in both customization of Magento/Shopware e-stores and development of e-commerce projects from scratch, any configuration of your future online book store can see the light with ease. What you need is just to indicate the features you would like to have.
This is about both the design and architecture of your website. The number of your brick-&-mortar book stores doesn’t matter: a unified corporate style along with functionality covering the entire chain will be developed.
Both Magento and Shopware leave a lot of room for customized solutions to be created by e-store developers. Moreover, it is easier to reach the borders of your creativity than to exhaust the capabilities of both platforms. Nonetheless, the truly deep expertise we possess in Magento/Shopware development helps us either implement the available extensions and apps or create custom solutions with individual features and design.
What custom features would we propose to have in your online book store?
Product page statistics for customers can help them make more accurate purchases based on other buyers’ feedback. It might include the number of “add to favorite”, views, “likes”, ratings, etc.
Either a demo version of a book or a trial passage can be proposed for customers to read for free. Such a promotional feature can help them clearly understand whether the book is what they need. The consumer confidence in your online book store will be strengthened and sales will grow, therefore.
Ask experts. The feature helps the most demanding and distrustful users to get a professional opinion about any book in your catalog. It can stimulate users to visit more product pages as well as spend more time on your website.
Integration with an ERP system. If you use any third-party system for your inventory management or accounting it won’t be a problem for us to integrate this system with your book platform. Moreover, all the data will be stored and synchronized in both systems so you do not need to worry about missing data or do some manual work.
Of course, a tailor-made website can express your individuality much better than any template-based one. Custom development makes sense in these days of personal approaches to customers in every sector. But who says that no e-commerce platform should underpin your unique online book store? Nobody does.
Check our portfolio to assess the e-stores we have successfully created under both Magento and Shopware for customers from different e-commerce segments. Do they look boring and generic? Far from it. The diversity in self-expression is what Magento and Shopware provide their users with.
The challenge is to find and select what you need among the huge variety of the available functions and features on the platforms. Leave this task to our experts and focus on your business strategy: new books appear every day while book lovers await your online solution to push the bookselling business forward.
Magento book store themes
It would be weird if no ready-made book store themes were available among Magento options. You can select the one which is closer to your vision of your online book store. So, two options are available in this area: you can hire a professional photo stylist to make your copyrighted visuals for your online book store or choose something from the already available designs that are represented in a wide template range of corresponding web resources (examples one and two).
Both approaches have their pros and cons, it is up to you to decide which one is more appropriate for you. If your project faces no financial constraints a custom design seems to be more preferable since the emphasized uniqueness usually impresses customers very much. This is especially inherent in the book store visitors who are used to choosing the visual impression from the book cover.
At the same time, the modest prices of many ready-made themes do not correspond to their high quality. The question of “why pay more” for a custom design becomes relevant here. As a matter of fact, you can find a fitting theme to please any audience. For instance, if you have an online book store for kids you will find plenty of magical and fairy ready-made themes. However, the theme you purchase may not fit your unique needs - that’s why custom store design is chosen by many companies.
How much does it cost to develop a book store on Magento or Shopware?
If the online book store creation is different from the other sorts of software development, the difference unlikely refers to such an aspect as the cost of development. Moreover, a general formula of the cost calculation works the same for both custom development and building a website on Magento/Shopware.
The essence of all calculations lies in the number of working hours the developers have to spend on their parts of the job. Every project is unique to some extent, so pricing, represented in the following table, relates to the basic functionality and is minimal therefore.
Average cost, $
SRS for the project
Server setup and tuning
Service (Cloud Flare, SSL, etc.) setup
Set up automation deployment
Solution 1: Ready-made book store theme
Solution 2: Custom book store theme
Solution 3: Custom responsive theme
Book store database architecture design
Go live (support)
Set up Magento/Shopware environment
Set up configuration from box
Install and configure additional extensions
Ready-made theme style and layout customization
Book store content pages creation
Proper project testing
The bookselling business never seems to become obsolete: books remain a marketable product despite any changes that keep happening due to the digital revolution.
People are accustomed to buying goods online today. Such global e-commerce giants as Amazon have had a hand in it in due time. Who knows which position Jeff Bezos would occupy in the world’s billionaires’ list these days if he started his business not from books in 1994.
E-books and audiobooks are occupying the global book market. At the same time, they assist in selling paper books while being offered in parallel with them by properly created promotional campaigns.
Online book stores provide the most efficient way of reaching a huge audience of book readers now. And nothing hints at the situation to be changed any time soon. To enter the book market with a professionally designed online book store both Magento and Shopware e-commerce platforms offer numerous features and opportunities.
Contact our experts to develop a highly customized online book store capable of meeting any contemporary business challenge with a perfect design and advanced functionality.
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