Bookstores collaborate with delivery platforms to survive pandemic
Updated 15:58, 19-Apr-2020
Gao Ang

Order online and receive within 30 minutes. It's not bubble tea or McDonald's; instead, it's books. 

"For example, I'm watching a fascinating TV series and it's adapted from a novel. Now I can order it online and get it very soon," said Jiang Li, Shanghai Xinhua Media Corporation's deputy manager. 

On Monday, some 30 bookstores in Shanghai joined up with Alibaba-backed delivery platform Eleme to boost sales. 

Cheaper books, lower delivery fees and platform promotions ... the initiative has come up with many ways to attract users. But due to distance limits and other factors, sales are not as high as stores would hope. Shanghai's Zhongban Bookstore has received only about 10 orders since it registered on Eleme two weeks ago. 

"At present the new mode hasn't hugely affected book sales. But the collaboration helps promote branding and make the surrounding communities aware of the book store," said Cui Junyou, Shanghai Zhongban Book Corporation's deputy manager. 

Brick-and-mortar bookstores in China join delivery platforms to boost sales. /VCG

Brick-and-mortar bookstores in China join delivery platforms to boost sales. /VCG

Some say this partnership is a forced choice. Hit hard by the pandemic, the book market saw a 15.9-percent decline in sales for the first quarter, compared to the same period last year. Nationwide, bookstore sales went down by over 50 percent as many suspended business. 

China's first-tier cities are the worst hit, with a decline of over 60 percent in sales. But online sales went up three percent while the delivery industry resumes. Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Dangdang serve customers across the country, but it usually takes a few days to delivery, while the new collaboration provides more chances for local bookstores. 

Cooperating with delivery platforms is one of the ways bookstores are using to try and survive. Some are also organizing live-streaming sessions to promote books and showcase paintings inside the stores. Others hold online reading activities on WeChat, one of China's most popular social media apps. 

With new technology and innovative selling methods, bookstores are seeking a path forward ... but it remains to be seen if they will overcome the uncertain times.