Although Amazon currently sells everything, almost literally, its beginnings were much more humble. Jeff Bezos founded the company as a kind of online bookstore, but a lot has happened since then. Amazon is a giant that is almost impossible to overshadow. A Goliath of the e-commerce of mobiles, tablets, household utensils and books, of course.
According to a report by the Federation of Publishers Guilds , 70% of the books purchased during confinement were purchased online. Of these, almost half were purchased through Amazon and only six out of a hundred in physical bookstores. Faced with the rise of online, some 800 bookstores from all over Spain associated with CEGAL came together to create a search platform for books to encourage local purchases back in 2011. Now they are taking a step further with the launch of its own online store, a store that unifies the stock of all stores and makes it available to the user. A David to fight a mighty Goliath whose name is allyourbooks.com.
Objective: to promote the online sale of offline bookstores
We spoke with Álvaro Manso, CEGAL spokesman, who tells us that the project was born in 2011, first as a search engine for bookstores where you can buy a physical book. There are currently 770 bookstores and it was not until October 20 that the platform stopped being a search engine and has also become an online store. As a platform, Manso explains, “it is the most important in Spain”. The idea is “to occupy a space that we physically have”, thus reflecting the real situation in the online world: that physical bookstores are where more books are bought (except in the pandemic, as reflected in the report mentioned above).
Manso believes that todostuslibros.com is not a platform that competes against Amazon , because Amazon sells more things than books. “I think we have a sales space on the Internet, because we represent that space within the book world in general, and we weren’t doing it and I think we weren’t doing it because we couldn’t access the Internet sales features from the individual pages “, referring to the fact that each bookstore has its own website and there was not, until now, a common project.
The idea is that the user can buy any book in his trusted bookstore . If there is no stock of a certain title in said bookstore, the booksellers can access an inter-bookstore exchange or, failing that, request it from the supplier to have it available in a few days. Remember that todostuslibros.com not only allows you to buy, but also to reserve . Manso confirms that neither the platform nor CEGAL are left with a commission: the money will go entirely to the bookseller. “Zero commission,” says Manso.
And speaking of stock, whether it is kept up-to-date depends on the bookseller and the platform itself. “The platform has certain criteria and, depending on how it acts, it scores or penalizes in some way, and it warns when there is an error,” explains Manso. The first thing that is done when receiving an order is to verify with the bookseller how to respond to it , if everything is correct, if the relationship established with the buyer is correct, etc. The inventory of a fund “is the responsibility of the bookseller”, since he must refresh his website three times a day so that the stock is updated. There may be mistakes, but you fight because there aren’t any.On the web you can access a map of those bookstores where the book is available.
From todostuslibros.com they aspire that the book be sent to the nearest point, since the page “tries to have the least ecological footprint possible. If we can avoid transport and make delivery to the bookstore we prefer it, if we can approach it from a point the closer the better. ” There is no kind of algorithm that decides which bookstore sells a book . They all play under the same conditions, since the user will buy the book from the closest bookstore. “The beneficiary of the purchase is not the platform that then settles the purchase, but is the bookseller directly,” says Manso.
The beneficiary of the purchase is not the platform that later settles the purchase, but is the bookseller directly”The beneficiary of the purchase is not the platform that later settles the purchase, but is the bookseller directly”
On paper the idea is very interesting, but the first step is to make the platform known and make the user buy through it. The price of books, as regulated by the Book Law , is the same on all platforms , so a title worth 20 euros in a bookstore is worth 20 euros in all, so it is not a variable that should be taken into account. All things being equal, the CEGAL spokesperson believes that added value is everything that surrounds the purchase.
“We believe that we offer something more”, Manso continues, “such as the functions that the platform has, see the synopsis that the bookseller does, the recommendations, manage the trusted bookstore and establish the relationship with the bookstores you want, access to their activities and even to see it live because it is being broadcast … I think we have moved the way of selling the booksellers “. The difference, therefore, is not in what is sold and its price, but in how the book is sold.
From CEGAL they consider that they have broad support from authors and publishers, “not by all, but the majority,” says Manso. The spokesperson explains that there are publishers that have given up their website pages to redirect to todostuslibros.com to complete the sale. One of them is Nordic. Others have removed the shopping carts, others add the platform as one of the additional shopping systems … Manso believes that “there is support from the rest of the chain” and that “the sensations are very good”, although it does not stop It is true that the web has been operating as ecommerce since October 20.
All in all, the launch has been quite positive, even more so if we bear in mind that it is actually announced today, November 13, Libraries Day . “According to the latest data that I have seen, it has gone from twenty thousand to 38,000 registered users in this time, I think they have generated around 3,000 direct and paid orders and about a thousand bookings in bookstores.” Manso also assures that the comments of the booksellers are positive and that, in addition, they want to participate in the platform, to the point that “there is a very interesting queue.”
The todostuslibros.com platform is fully focused on the sale of physical, printed and paper books, and for now they do not have electronic books on the near horizon . “The electronic book is very outside the bookstore trade, because it is controlled by a series of platforms that are the providers. We are not talking about a similar market,” says the spokesman. ” We are very out of that business , really, because it is very concentrated and therefore I do not see that the bookstores have possibilities of being. They are not at this moment, not even through their web pages. Very few are the bookstores that offer them on their web pages and those that have them have them for merely service, not business.
You might think of letting authors sell their books on the platform, but it’s complicated. “There are a series of sections in the world of rights in this case and the commitments that authors have with their own publishers, which is also a complex issue.” For CEGAL it is not a near horizon. It is not impossible either , but right now they prefer to develop the platform and put it to work one hundred percent. Objective one, without going any further, is that all the bookstores start selling in it.
On the future, expectations are very high, but they still do not dare to give a figure. “I think we have to recover the same percentage of sales that we have outside the Internet, that would be the logic, and that obviously is not going to happen in a year. I think we have to show that we are approaching that space [referring to online commerce ] which, I think, is the one that corresponds to us “.
The bookstores are excited about the project
Without a doubt, what todostuslibros.com proposes is interesting. A Herculean challenge where they exist, but interesting. From Xataka we have contacted some bookstores associated with CEGAL and present on the platform in different parts of Spain to find out how they are facing this project and what they expect from the platform. They are, specifically, the Puppet Library (Córdoba), Literature Library (Ávila) and San Pablo Library (Santiago de Compostela).
Hermenegilda Moreno, regent of Librería Títere, tells us that the impact of the pandemic has been “brutal, like that of all small businesses.” The Cordovan estimates that sales compared to last year have fallen “between 30 and 40 percent , we are in tremendous, devastating figures.” He thinks that large platforms like Amazon “do a lot of damage to small businesses and bookstores, of course.” However, Hermenegilda considers that the issue is the education and sensitivity of the people. “Amazon is not guilty and if it is guilty of something it is that people have decided to use it. It is more about the education of citizens.
On todostuslibros.com, Moreno says that the expectations were high and that “it has been to announce it and there has been an uproar on the part of people, completely overturned, determined to make this work.” Her clientele has been very happy about the project and, for her, “expectations have been more than met.”
The Puppet Library, which sells through the platform, has experienced an increase in sales and interest from the public , but what it really hopes is that “people become aware” “Hopefully it is not left alone in this, you know that news is always like this. But from the start it was fantastic. ”
And from Córdoba we go to a street in Santiago de Compostela, where we speak by phone with Noemí Varela, regent of Librería San Pablo. The case of this bookstore is peculiar, since it is an establishment dedicated to texts of a religious nature and the Camino de Santiago , although they also have children’s books and a general fund. Part of his business was also in tourism, tourism that in these times has been significantly reduced.
He considers that bookstores are “a sector that is used to crises. We had the electronic crisis, we had more crises, and this one is hard, but I face it as one more crisis in the world of books. I think there are sectors that are more affected than ours. Last year’s sales have nothing to do with this year’s, but hey, we are resisting, as always . Worse, but as always. ” According to Naomi, sales are down 60% compared to last year.
Regarding purchases in large online platforms, he thinks that the pandemic favors this scenario and that “we see it in houses next door, who are asking Amazon, and yes, it shows. That only changes by changing the mind of each one , with a commitment to local commerce, local bookstores … “. He believes that people will support allyourbooks.com and the proof, he explains, are the messages that come from his clients showing their support.”We had the electronic crisis, we had more crisis, and this is hard, but I face it as one more crisis in the world of books”
For Varela, this project involves “I don’t know whether to compete with him, but to stick my finger in Amazon’s eye . Let’s try it.” Their expectations with the platform are not only with the platform, but “various specific actions”. These are the ones Álvaro Manso referred to previously, see “home sales, telematic reading clubs, the customer card, it will not be the entire platform, although it will be important, of course”.
Thus we arrived at Ávila, where we spoke with Gemma Orgaz, from the Letras Bookstore. Orgaz considers that right now there is movement, even more so after the months of hiatus “and of only selling the essentials.” Right now they have more movement thanks to the beginning of the school year and facing Christmas, “but you can tell that there is fear. People are very dedicated to helping us continue the neighborhood store , but there is still a certain fear”. They can’t give us an exact figure, but he estimates that sales during these pandemic months have dropped by 30%
To alleviate the effects of the pandemic, Librería Letras, which does not sell through its website, organized a dropshipping system with distributors to take books to customers without passing through the bookstore. They have also delivered at home during the pandemic . “We would open in the morning to provide the minimum services, basically for the stationery, but if they ordered books I would go around the houses distributing them.”
The Literary Library does not sell yet on todostuslibros.com, so they cannot speak of an increase in sales. It is also a relatively new bookstore in CEGAL, since it has been associated for a year. What they have noticed is an increase in people’s interest. “We still don’t work with online, but over time we should be practically all of them.” Gemma is confident that she will be operating on the platform by the beginning of next year .
For the bookstore this is the advantage, that they are all, since “we offer the same thing [as the big platforms] at least, since you can buy a book in two clicks and have it sent to your home in 24-48 hours ” . In the absence of starting to sell, he does tell us that there are clients who have contacted him because they have seen in todostuslibros.com that they had such a book in stock to reserve it or to send it to them.
According to Orgaz, “unity is strength. We [referring to bookstores] offer things that other sales platforms do not offer, such as recommendations, readers’ opinions, seeing the activities that each independent bookstore does … We offer recommendations , which is what real booksellers offer, not a platform where you have to go for a book.