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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wal-Mart Rises To Become 4th Biggest Book Retailer

According to new sales data supplied by Bowker Market Research, as reported by Publishers Weekly, Amazon’s lead in the book marketplace grew substantially this past year.

29% of all money spent on books comes via Amazon – up from 23% last year.

Barnes and Noble grew – barely – from a 19% share to 20%. Online retailers – other than and, such as Apple, accounted for 10% of all book spending by consumers. Independent bookstores combined to get 6% of the marketplace, down significantly from its 9% share of a year ago.

In fourth place, in a three-way tie, each with 4% of the book market, is Wal-Mart, book clubs, and Christian outlets. The nation’s supermarkets only account for 1% of all book sales. The warehouse clubs took 3% and Books-A-Million, the second-largest book chain, took in only 2% of all book sales.

The study revealed that ebook dollars only accounted for 10% of all book revenue. 64% of ebook spending came from women. The age demographic doing the most spending on ebooks was 18-29 year-olds (31%). 30-44-year-olds were close behind (28%). But young teens, 13-17, only accounted for 5% of ebook sales.

Last year, Borders accounted for 10% of all book sales and this year they are shuttered.

Interview With Author Simon Lewis

1. What type of books do you write? I write noirish crime thrillers. But I also write guidebooks, travel articles, screenplays... I've never turned down a paid writing job. For novels, I start with an idea, then write it first as a screenplay - to nail structure, characters, story - then I decided whether has the legs to be expanded into a novel. 

2. What is your latest or upcoming book about? Border Run is a gap year adventure story. On the Burmese border, two naïve backpackers follow a tour guide into the jungle, tantalized by the possibility of dalliances with local tribal ladies. At an idyllic waterfall, they discover that nothing is as it seems and their guide has tricked them into smuggling. It heads into Heart of Darkness territory when a customs official gets murdered...  

3. What inspired you to write it? I was in China, in the jungly zone close to the Burmese border, researching a guidebook. The area was too marginal to justify many pages in the guide, but it fascinated me. There was an intriguing mix of the sleazy and exotic; plenty of shady characters and cross cultural confusions and connections. Northern Burma is pretty lawless and one of the main industries here was receiving smuggled goods - teak, jade and drugs, usually - from across the border. I knew it would make a great location for a novel, and another encounter gave me the leads: a couple of gap year backpackers turned up at my guesthouse, and seemed blithely unaware, so it seemed to me, of the need to take a little care as they searched out local temptations. I remember thinking, you could really get into trouble here. Later I saw Wa tribal people with their traditional homemade crossbows and it got me thinking: a crossbow would be a great weapon to use, bookwise: because of the long loading time, you would have to shoot once then run away, so a crossbow duel could be dragged out over dozens of suspenseful pages. So I knew that the ending would be a duel, fought with crossbows, between a couple of backpackers. I like fast paced stories of action and adventure abroad, and it seemed like I could get one out of this.

4. What did you do before you became an author? I worked all kinds of odd jobs, nothing distinguished, and I worked on guidebooks. I was pretty itinerant for about ten years. Basically, I would do some travel writing, or update a guidebook, then try to eke out whatever I had earned from that while I worked on novels or screenplays. And that meant staying in Asia simply because it's much cheaper to live there - five thousand pounds a year was all I needed. I wrote my first novel while living in a village in the Indian Himalaya. I was staying with a family in a room by the household buffalo. Every morning I would build a fire and make buffalo milk porridge. Then I would walk into the mountains with notebooks and write all day. I was there for about five months and I came back with a novel, Go, which wound up doing pretty well. I ended up spending about two years in India, five in China. 

5. How does it feel to be a published author? I would write whether I was published or not, but I enjoy the sense of validation that you get from being published. It's quite nerve wracking, relying on it for income, but I guess that keeps me sharp and hungry.

6. Any advice for struggling writers? You never stop struggling, so get used to it. You struggle to be published, then you struggle to make your work better, and to be honest, you have to struggle to keep getting published. It's ruthless. There's no treading water. In terms of work, revise a lot. It all comes down to story and character, never forget that. Don't bother writing about yourself, or think of writing as in some way expressing yourself, that's boring. Efface yourself from your work.  

7. Where do you see book publishing heading? If writers can put their work online, what are publishers for? I guess they have to realise that their job is going to move towards being about quality control and marketing, rather than distribution. 

For more information, please see

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.


  1. Interesting information about Walmart and book sales. I enjoyed this interview with Simon Lewis and I think his advice is good. Lots to take in!

  2. Book store contributes only about 1 % to the overall store industry. Text and curriculum guides account for about 50 % of the sales. Second-hand guides are also a big chunk of the book store market.
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