Browsing the Future of Bookshops

sector - retail
type - market focus
Market Focus
While the book economy continues to grow, bookshops must re-invent themselves to remain relevant – but they’re not going anywhere.

Drivers: what’s happening

Amazon and Covid lockdowns have challenged bookshops to the extent that a Manchester-based bookseller in the UK told The New Statesman they had ‘a genuine fear that actual physical bookshops would be forced out of business’. But not only is the number of bookshops on the rise in the UK and the US, the print book industry is also growing. According to WordsRated, print book sales in the US have increased by almost 100m copies compared to the pre-pandemic period. In 2022, over 789m copies of printed books were sold in the US, the second-highest sales figure for printed books in the 21st century after 2021 (843m copies).

Bookshops now have to tackle a cost of living crisis, with higher rent and utility bills, while the publishing industry deals with paper and printing costs inflation. Meanwhile, customers still walk through the door, craving the unique browsing experience on which bookshops pride themselves.

A new wave of specialist bookshops managed by and dedicated to specific communities have also emerged during the pandemic, from Manhattan’s Yu and Me Books which showcases immigrant stories, to East London’s The Common Press, an LGBTQ+ hybrid space that includes a bookshop, a café, a podcast studio and rooms hosting everything from Bollywood dance classes to book signings.

‘We opened in August 2021, and it’s been absolutely incredible. We’ve got a very busy event schedule and pretty much a full shop all the time,’ Alfonzo Sieveking, manager of The Common Press, told LS:N Global. This new hybrid business model going beyond bookselling is crucial for bookshops to survive, but also shows a new kind of community hub that includes books rather than just a store centred around books.

Published by:

14 March 2023

Author: Savannah Scott and Dan Hastings

Image: The Annex cannabis dispensary designed by Superette, Toronto


Right: Chengdu Xinglong Lake CITIC Bookstore by MUDA-Architects; Left: Jack Edwards BookTok review, UK

Market shifts: what's new

Algorithms can’t provide moments of serendipity

In 2022, Amazon closed its own bookstores, which were supposed to compete with the local businesses it had already weakened with its online offer and Kindle device. For booksellers, the reason behind this failure is the lack of human recommendations that customers crave in their local bookstore. Kindle’s suggestions and random Amazon reviews can’t compete with browsing and being guided by someone passionate enough about books to accept a bookseller’s salary.

‘I don’t think that big chain bookstores have much of a future,’ Mike Shatzkin, co-author of The Book Business: What Everyone Needs To Know, told LS:N Global. He believes successful bookstores will be more personal and specialised businesses targeting specific groups of people with similar interests.

‘Tomorrow’s bookstore will have a personal character and attract people who respond to that idiosyncrasy. There might be one in Pittsburgh that I really like. And there’s nothing like it in New York or Dallas, because the bookseller in Pittsburgh started a store about the history of American manufacturing given they used to have steel mills there.’

The rise of BookTok

With an astonishing 114bn views and counting, #BookTok is one of TikTok’s most engaging online communities where readers share reviews, recommendations and book-related content worldwide. That’s why librarians and bookstores joined the video platform to ‘meet [young readers] where they are’. Booksellers are promoting their range of books while jumping on trending sounds and dance challenges to grow their community of followers and brand awareness. The BookTok community even propelled several books onto The New York Times Bestseller list. The China-based platform invests in BookTok’s potential and has announced new partnerships with HarperCollins UK, WH Smith, Bloomsbury and, all of which will sell books via TikTok’s online marketplace.

‘We’re delighted to be making it even easier for book-lovers to buy the latest BookTok recommendations without ever leaving the platform, while also providing new avenues for publishers both large and small to reach their audiences,’ says TikTok Shop’s senior director of e-commerce, Patrick Nommensen.

In Q4 of 2022, TikTok generated over £292m ($350m, €328m) in in-app revenue. This is more than Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat combined in 2023, according to Adam Blacker, a vice-president at mobile metrics company Apptopia.


‘The end of bookselling is predicted every few decades after each new technological innovation goes mainstream. We’re confident it’s not going to happen. The people who shop in bookshops want that instant gratification that all other retailers aspire to.’
Alfonzo Sieveking, manager, The Common Press, UK

Want to unlock more?
This is a taster of the content we publish for members of LS:N Global

Sign up to our trends intelligence platform LS:N Global and get unlimited access to a hive of insights - from microtrends and macro trends to market reports, daily news, research across eight industry sectors.


Already a member? Click here to login