Australian booksellers and publishers would give their collective eye teeth to know just how much money leaches out of the industry to line the pockets of the two colossuses who dominate bookselling around the world. From the point of view of the customer, the overseas pricing can be compelling. When it comes to delivery and service, it can be a different experience altogether however.
Booktopia, which is Australia’s largest online bookseller, is a family company. We’re pretty proud of ourselves having be in the BRW Magazine’s Fast 100 two years in a row now. Last year, we sat at number 77. This year we came in at number 59. No wonder it often feels like we are riding on the back of a tiger. There were only eight retailers listed in that group of 100 companies, and it is pretty exciting that a company in an industry which is constantly predicted to be in demise is in fact growing so quickly. Nonetheless, we compete on the world stage, and we are minnows compared with our competitors. We have to be pretty nimble, and pretty savvy to win business from customers who care little about whether their book buying habits go to employ poms or aussies, so long as the price is right.
Or so we thought. Throughout the month of October we ran our inaugural Booktoberfest promotion. We had lots of really enticing promotions. It turned out to be a record month for us. We had orders in the tens of thousands.
I have just spent a happy day or two as Ms Santa Claus, administering all of the promotions (the recipients of which are listed below). What gave me the most pleasure however, was drilling down into some of those orders and seeing just where our customers are. Yes, we have plenty of Sydney people, and yes there are plenty from other capital cities, but we are sending parcels to Clare in SA, Figtree in NSW, Donnybrook in WA, Chillagoe in Queensland, Penguin in Tasmania, Katherine in the Northern Territory and Hall’s Gap in Victoria.
Real Australians, buying books from an Australian company – people who often find it pretty difficult to access a local bookshop, and people who want the benefit of a store that essentially has several million titles able to be accessed in a matter of seconds.
What also sent a shiver of excitement down my spine was looking at some of the names of our customers and the incredible variety of books that they choose. It is pretty difficult to do the hand selling thing over the internet, so if your bookselling background is like mine, in independent stores, it is a shock not having a direct and personal relationship with your customers. Our approach at Booktopia is to try and enrich the content of our titles as much as possible, so that the customer has confidence buying. From the look of the names of some of our customers, there are plenty of people who hale from around the globe, who are probably a lot happier buying this way than going into the local shop. We’ve got the range for them for a start.
Where does that leave us? Of course, we have to compete on price. We probably should trumpet it more but over 99% of the books on our site are discounted by at least 10%. One glance at our site makes that obvious. Many titles are discounted more generously. We certainly compete on service, reliability and general wonderfulness. Why so many Australian authors clutter up the airwaves by promoting overseas suppliers rather than a local one, I have no idea.
Anyway, here endeth the polemic! We had a great Booktoberfest. Thank you to all our fabulous customers. Below are all the people who walked away with some exceptional giveaways. It will be bigger and better next October so we’ll see you there.
Of the tens of thousands of people who shopped with us in October, Anita Nayer struck gold. She is currently tucked away in Melbourne putting together the world’s most enviable shopping list. Meanwhile, this is part of what she sent me when I contacted her with the news.
Recipient of the $2200 signed Ken Duncan print – Deane Meatheringham of Clare, South Australia. Our thanks go to Ken for donating this print, which is the cover image for his gorgeous, new Walking in the Light.
Recipient of the case of a dozen bottles of fine de Bortoli wine – Trevor Lofts of Langwarrin, Victoria. Our thanks go to John Wiley & Sons Australia, de Bortoli, and the Australia’s First Families of Wine, all of whom are chronicled in the marvellous Heart & Soul.
Recipient of the Story Time giveaway promotion, four signed hardbacks, namely How to Heal a Broken Wing, The Boy from Bowral, Guess How Much I Love you and Sabuda’s Dinosaurs, with many thanks to Walker Books Australia:
Recipient of the Klutz giveaway promotion, $100 of fun Klutz activity books, with many thanks to Scholastic Australia:
Recipient of the Chicken Socks giveaway promotion, $100 of early learning Chicken Socks activity books, with many thanks to Scholastic Australia:
Recipients of the Teach Yourself promotion giveaway, $80 of fabulous, functional Teach Yourself books of their choice, with many thanks to publisher Hachette Australia: