The Internet killed our business

Internet blamed as booksellers enter administrationABC‘s Lateline ran a story on how the publishing industry is blaming the Internet for the death of their business. It’s never pleasant to see your business go under, and it can make for very uncertain and unpleasant times for their employees.

But the Internet didn’t kill their business.

The Internet is a technology – it doesn’t have a business plan, a distribution network or a CEO. It started as an experiment some 20 – 30 years ago, which is partly why we have now run out of space. The likes of Amazon, Apple, The Book Repository, and now Kmart and Big W use the Internet technology (and their bulk buy capability) to deliver cheaper books and a larger range than the traditional book stores. In other words, their competitors have used technology to their competitive advantage – and it’s them that are killing their business. Not the Internet – otherwise, I guess, we should ban the Internet…

My suggestion would be to stop blaming the Internet – a complete fruitless exercise – and focus on figuring out how to fight back, if nothing else out of respect for your employees. Booktopia and Fishpond are two good, Australian examples where they’ve taken the Amazons on at their own game. Bookware have added a specialist focus and an overnight delivery service for orders placed before 3pm.

And why not create a tailored, online marketplace for Australian writers – I know of a number of well written, interesting books by Australians, that haven’t been published because of what seems like an overly complicated approach to linking the publisher with the writer. Maybe even using the likes of Apple or Amazon to enable cheap, electronic publications?

So maybe what’s really killing their business is an inability to innovate and change their business rather than Amazon or the Internet? But transforming a business isn’t easy, as described by John P. Kotter in his Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.

One thing for sure is that just sitting back and blame a technology is not going to save a business.

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