“Book distribution works on trust”

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shares Vijay Ahuja of Delhi Book Store, which has been into book distribution for the past seven decades and is still growing strong. Here, he shares the changes in the book distribution process and why distribution seems to be challenge for publishers. All publishers, big or small, say that distribution is a challenge. It is because there have been a lot many changes in the distribution channels in the past few years. A lot of brick-and-mortar bookshops have shut down, leaving many cities and towns without booksellers or making customers go extra miles to reach a bookstore, thus making it difficult for a publisher to reach its potential readers.

Vijay Ahuja, Delhi Book StoreAnother major development is that there has been a rise in large bookstore chains, which have in a way helped publishers by reducing distribution costs, facilitating better and efficient ordering practices and encouraged book signings and literary events at the stores. They also stock more number of copies of each title but the flip side is that they are more interested in stocking the bestselling titles that move off the shelf quickly.

Yet another major development is the popularity of online bookstores. E-books and e-readers have further enhanced the competition. Though digital sales are increasing, but still books in India are preferred as physical copies and bookshops are required to cater to books, which are neither bestsellers nor highly reviewed in media. So here comes the role of a distributor, who can take books to wholesalers, librarians, and bookstores. One such distributor, efficiently working towards this goal is Delhi Book Store, which is in the business of distribution of printed books for the last seven decades.

As per Vijay Ahuja of Delhi Book Store, “Distribution works on trust. Distributors should have trust on buyers to recover the payment and buyers should have the trust on distributors to offer him the best books. In last seven decades, we have seen a lot of ups and downs but have always managed to sail through the tough times. We opted for this business to provide good quality foreign books to academicians and students at affordable prices.”

Talking about the challenges, Vijay shares that the biggest challenge is recovery of payment from the buyer. “Because of the discount war among the distributors, the margins have shrunk drastically and on top of it if a buyer falters in making timely payment, then instead of making some money, a distributor actually makes loss,” he said.

“Earlier, it was distributor driven market as the distributor was the king, but now the pendulum has shifted in favour of retailers. Earlier discounts were less and margins were good but now the discount has gone up and margins have gone down. Retailers used to visit distributors to make selection to stock the books. Nowadays there is hardly any retailer left in the market who is ready to invest in stocking. This has resulted in more and more unsold stock with the distributors. Most of the retailers have become distributors as publishers have opened their account and started direct supplies,” he further added.

So how has online bookstores impacted the book distribution? “The only impact it has made is that instead of focusing on buying nowadays, customer focuses more on discounts. This has created confusion in the minds of customers and a confused buyer always buys lesser,” tells Vijay.

On asking about how technology has impacted distribution, Vijay replied, “This has impacted in a positive way. Now distributors can plan well in advance about their purchases and can also manage the inventory in a much better way. This all happens because of technology.”

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