Independent bookstores close in protest of Singles’ Day online sales

Taipei,  Some 40 independent bookstores in Taiwan closed shop for the day Wednesday, to protest what they said was the negative impact of Singles’ Day online sales on their business and chances of survival.

“In the book price war, you and I are the ones who will be ultimately affected,” the scores of bookstores said on their social media pages, in a message written on a black background.

Their ire was directed mainly at momo.com and books.com.tw, two massive e-commerce sites in Taiwan that were offering a 34 percent discount on books on Singles’ Day, a shopping day that is observed annually on Nov. 11.

Bleu & Book in Taipei, Le Ballon Rouge in Pingtung County, and TaKao Books in Kaohsiung were among the 40-plus independent bookstores that closed for the day in protest of the book price war.

For an independent bookstore, there is “nothing more saddening” than seeing cheap book sales become the norm, which ultimately results in the demise of physical bookstores, TaKao Books wrote on its Facebook page.

One of the first to announce its closure for the day, TaKao Books said that on Singles’ Day, new books are usually sold online at less than the wholesale price for independent bookstores.

This is an issue that the publishing industry and e-commerce businesses should address, TaKao Books said, adding that the choices made should be to the benefit of all booksellers in Taiwan and the country’s culture.

Chen Jun-hsing (陳潤星), owner of the 65-year-old Nanfang Bookstore, the oldest in Changhua County, expressed similar views.

When e-commerce sites engage in price wars, that makes it harder for physical bookstores to survive, which is why so many independent bookstores are cooperating to raise awareness of the issue, Chen told CNA.

Another bookstore owner, Tsai Wen-li (蔡文力) of Farming Words in Hsinchu, said that while bookstores are enterprises and need innovative business models, they are not equipped to handle the “ruthless price cuts” offered by large corporations.

Even if the independent bookstores’ call for change falls on deaf ears, they must speak up, Tsai said.

In response to the boycotts, momo.com said Wednesday that it values the development of the market for books, and its aim is to offer a convenient way for customers to purchase books.

The Singles’ Day promotions are only flash sales, and prices will return to normal after the promotion ends, the company said.

Books.com.tw, which started as Taiwan’s first online bookstore and now sells a wide range of products, declined to comment on the issue, except to say that it respected the actions taken by independent bookstores.

Asked about the boycott, Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) said his ministry has put in place measures that support independent bookstores.

When the Ministry of Culture (MOC) issued stimulus vouchers to consumers this year, independent bookstores were among the listed businesses at which the vouchers could be used, which helped to boost their sales, Lee said.

In a separate statement, the MOC said that in 2014, it helped independent bookstores set up a coalition to coordinate their wholesale purchases.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel