The Impact of Coronavirus on Book Publishing – April 2020


The Impact of Coronavirus on Book Publishing
April 2020

Much has been written about Amazon’s shift to prioritizing ‘essential’ goods in its supply chain over the past few weeks. For consumers, this means an often-inconvenient delay in receiving some products.

For vendors, however, this represents a much more impactful change on their core business.

Book Publishing is one such industry, where publishers are seeing a rising number of their books not available to ship from Amazon.

We track a number of data points for multiple publishers on a variety of retail platforms. Starting in mid-March, we began to see tremendous impact on publisher catalogs with a large degree of variation between them.

  • On March 18, for one large publisher with over 20k print titles, we saw more than 5.5% were delayed, and an astounding 60% were showing as low stock.
  • 15% of the catalog was defaulting to being sold by third-party sellers, not Amazon directly, with only half of those being fulfilled by those third-party sellers.

This last point has been of particular concern to Book Publishers since many of those third-party sellers only have one unit in stock which often implies they are selling a used or free copy of the book via that marketplace, which does not result in revenue to the Publisher.

But for now, that concern must take a back seat to the more pressing issue of product availability to consumers who are browsing the site, particularly since physical retail has all but shut down for products like books. Look at the following data:


Chart 1 shows the current day snapshot and 30-day trend for a number of ‘availability statuses’ on Amazon for yet another U.S. publisher.

  • In mid-March, there was a material shift of titles from ‘In-Stock’ to ‘Delayed’ or ‘Low Stock.’
  • Over the last two weeks of March, the percentage of ‘In-Stock’ declined from 90% to roughly 70%.

Chart 2 shows the same timespan but, for simplicity, with the top two ‘availability statuses’ removed from the chart, revealing the sharp increase in Delayed and Out-of-stock titles:

  • Note that many of the affected titles are backlist and not individually significant, but in aggregate, they are certainly material.

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