World’s favourite bookstores ranking shows enduring market

Actor Taylor Kinney leaving the much loved City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco. Kanaka Menehune/Flickr, CC BY-NC

World’s favourite bookstores ranking shows enduring market

Actor Taylor Kinney leaving the much loved City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco. Kanaka Menehune/Flickr, CC BY-NC

In a business environment that has seen industries decimated by the rise of digital, one sector showing resilience is that of books.

“Books are not like recorded music,” says Shaun Symonds, general manager of Nielsen Bookscan.

If anything, the total global market for books is growing, as confirmed in research by PwC and others:

Total Market for Global Books Continues to Grow PwC Global entertainment and media outlook 2015–2019, PwC, Ovum

If you adjust for the effects of the closure of major book chains such as Borders there is in fact only one or two years of decline in sales volume over the last decade in most major markets. Every other year including the most recent year’s figures reflect a modest year-on-year growth in total books (including eBooks) sold on the year before.

That’s not to say there’s not been significant disruption and consolidation in the industry. A large part of the highest-value highest-margin segments of the business such as hardback fiction are steadily migrating to eBook and online fulfilment. And of course the rise of online pure-play booksellers such as Amazon, Flipcart and The Book Depository has meant a new level of global competition for local independent bookstores and chains alike.

The migration to eBooks has meant the total dollar value of books sold has declined but the profitibility of some publishers has actually increased as they’ve removed a lot of their printing, wharehousing and distribution costs. A growing source of the industries profits are from eBooks at analysis by Bain shows.

Growing share of profits from eBooks Publishing in the Digital Era, Bain 2011.

On the retail front while some bookshops have not managed to survive this last decade, many have held on. And some are thriving and flourishing - delighting their customers in ways only they know how. And being remembered for it.

The long-established Shakespeare & Company featured in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. Tamara Craiu/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In an economy increasingly governed by attention, the need for companies and retailers to have their brands recognised and remembered has never been greater. Being forgotten is one of the greatest clear and present dangers in the global, web-connected and digital economy.

Using web data it’s possible to measure the collective visibility of today’s leading bookstores from around the world.

Towards a global Top 40

Novelist & co-creator of kids TV series Hi-5 Posie Graeme-Evans recently wrote about her Top 10 Favourite Bookstores.

What if you could find out who everyone’s favourite bookstores were, around the world? And what if this list included all the legendary independent stores like Shakespeare and Company in Paris, as well as online bookstores like Amazon and bookstore chains like Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles and Dymocks. Using large scale data collections from the web, I set about doing this.

The Top 40 Bookstores list is based on how many people think about these stores and how often.

Perhaps not surprisingly online stores lead the list with Amazon.com followed by the online goliath Flipkart of India just ahead of the world’s largest bookstore chain Barnes & Noble. France’s giant cultural and electronics retailing chain Fnac is fourth with the UK’s largest bookstore chain Waterstones rounding out the top five.

What may come as a surprise is leading independent single stores or small chains including Shakespeare and Company (Paris); Powells (Portland) and City Lights (San Francisco) all feature in the top 20.

Here is the list in full:

World’s Top Bookstores 2015

# Bookstore Twitter HQ Country
1 Amazon.com @amazonbooks US
2     Flipkart @Flipkart India
3 Barnes & Noble @BNBuzz US
4 Fnac</a @Fnac France
5 Waterstones @waterstones UK
6 The Book Depository @bookdepository UK
7 AbeBooks @AbeBooks Canada
8 Shakespeare and Company @Shakespeare_Co France
9 Books-A-Million @booksamillion US
10 Hay-on-Wye @Hay_On_WyeBooks   UK
11 WHSmith @WHSmith UK
12 Infibeam @infibeam India
13 Chapters Indigo @chaptersindigo Canada
14 Powell’s Books @Powells US
15 City Lights Bookstore @CityLightsBooks US
16 Blackwell UK @blackwellbooks UK
17 National Book Store @nbsalert The Phillipines
18 Alibris @alibris US
19 Foyles @Foyles UK
20 Eslite Bookstore @eslite Taiwan
21 MPH Group @M_TWEETbyMPH Malaysia
22 Hudson Group @hudsonbooks US
23 Books Kinokuniya @Kinokuniya Japan
24 Fishpond @Fishpondcom NZ
25 Strand Bookstore @strandbookstore US
26 Hastings Entertainment @goHastings US
27 Half Price Books @halfpricebooks US
28 Popular Holdings #popularworld Singapore
29 Livraria Cultura @livcultura Brazil
30 Higginbotham’s #higginbothams India
31 Landmark Bookstores @landmarkstores India
32 Hatchards @Hatchards UK
33 Fopp @foppofficial UK
34 Dymocks Booksellers @dymocksbooks Australia
35 Harvard/MIT Cooperative Society   @harvardcoop US
36 Eason & Son @easons Ireland
37 NewsLink #newslink Australia
38 Archambault @archambaultCA Canada
39 Kyobo Book Centre @withKyoboBook Korea
40 Hodges Figgis @Hodges_Figgis Ireland
Ranked by Bookstore Mind Share 1.01; Paul X McCarthy, June 2015

The methodology

To create the Top 40 I created a “Bookstore Mind Share” (BMS index) derived from web data such as global visits to each bookseller’s Wikipedia page. This approach is a proxy for popularity or notoriety. I then standardised the results to allow comparisons across categories and across the world. As the BMS is based on the English-language web it is mainly representative of English-language countries and English-language bookstores but interestingly still includes bookstores in Korea and Brazil.

By using a standard measures across global web platforms like Wikipedia traffic data, Google Books N-Gram and Google search term frequency you can create interesting and fascinating comparisons that span across time and geography.

Another example of this type of web data use is the MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon project where you can browse rankings of many people across history from ancient times to today including:

This is an experimental data project and I would encourage readers to comment or make suggestions for improvements or additions.