Selling Ebooks in Prague
I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Prague* and found myself in a lovely little English-language bookshop there called Shakespeare & Sons. I was about to leave in search of more Pilsner Urquell when I decided to ask the store owner about business.
After all, indie bookstores in the U.S. and the UK, where ebooks are booming, are under pressure to adapt to a world where more people get their books online or through the ether of Amazon’s Whispernet.
He told me that business is getting “better and better.” The shop has been open for 10 years and 2012 has been its best yet. Apparently, according to the bookseller, more Prague natvies are interested in reading English and there are more tourists each year who come and want to buy English books.
In addition, he’s started selling ebooks through his website, shakes.cz. He told me that he’s selling about 100 ebooks a month this way, which is dwarfed by how many print books he sells but it’s growing.
According to the U.S. governement’s assessment, Czechs are among the most avid readers in the world with one of the highest rates of books published per 10,000 inhabitants. The industry is rather small, however, at $200 million a year. Learning that doesn’t surprise me, as there were plenty of bookstores in Prague and I saw many people reading in cafes.
One thing I saw little of, however, was people using e-readers or tablet computers. The only one I saw my entire time in the country was in line in the airport — an iPad used by a British child to play games.
On my way out of the store, something caught my eye: a shelf of Philip Roth books. He’s one of my favorite authors so I took a moment to see the stores selection. I stumbled upon a Roth title that I had never seen before, The Prague Orgy. I love old-fashioned book discovery.
Prague is Franz Kafka territory:
* Including Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving and was not happy about missing it but made the sacrifice to travel. Suffice it to say, the goulash feast we ate for our Thanksgiving dinner was good, but not as good as my mom’s turkey. (=shout-out to my mom’s turkey)