Independent bookstores across the nation yesterday celebrated the establishment of the Taiwan Friendly Book Suppliers Cooperative, which vows to help small bookstores thrive amid a general decline in the publishing industry.
Organizers of the cooperative say that a collaborative approach to supply chain management can help small bookstores fare better in competition with larger franchises and e-commerce giants.
The project has drawn the support of 30 independent bookstores nationwide as well as several publishers, with each shareholder investing a minimum of NT$10,000.
By pooling in resources to invest in shipment fees, digital platforms and storage facilities, members of the cooperative aim to purchase books from publishers at a 40 percent discount and set retail prices at 30 percent off.
At present, e-commerce platforms commonly offer books at 34 percent off, outcompeting their traditional counterparts with cutthroat prices.
The cooperative’s founder, Edward Su (蘇至弘), who runs NTHU Books (水木書苑) at Hsinchu’s National Tsing Hua University, said he was inspired by the business model employed by farmers’ cooperatives.
He described the cooperative as a “public experiment” in seeking a solution for the nation’s ailing publishing industry, adding that it would be based on the principle of social entrepreneurship instead of profit.
One of the cooperative’s goals is to allow the appreciation of literature and reading to “take root” in the nation, he said.
As distributors often refuse to supply merchandise to small independent bookstores in remote locations, bookstore owners see the cooperative as a way to ensure a steady supply chain through collective purchases.
By setting up a unified platform to process orders among different independent bookstores, the cooperative could also save time and energy for publishers, said Liu Chi (劉霽), the owner of a small publishing firm.
Publisher Rex How (郝明義) said that although the prospects for the publishing industry in Taiwan might seem grim, dire circumstances might spur bookstore owners to pursuit more creative business models.
“Bookstores in Taiwan ... often provide customers a unique mix of experiences,” How said.
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