Some years ago, there was a lot of concern about the impact of the big digital platforms on the European cultural and creative industries. Now we could say without hesitate, thar there is no doubt those global e-commerce giants have profoundly impacted the scene of traditional publishing and bookselling industries in Europe. One of the big US platforms, Amazon, has revolutionized the market of books and is now a crucial B2B player for the publishers in all the world.

Amazon’s market domination in both print book sales and e-books has raised alarms about monopolistic practices, by influencing over book pricing, distribution, and the overall publishing ecosystem. Its aggressive pricing strategies could undervalue books and make the business impossible for publishers and booksellers and not only for independent players, but also for the big groups.

The pressures to lower prices and adapt to new distribution models, which often prioritise speed and cost efficiency over traditional publishing standards, have forced publishers to reconsider their business strategies and adapt to meet those requests to retain market relevance. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that the impact on the European booksellers has been much more systemic.

As one of the results of this process, there has been several initiatives to fostering innovation in distribution and retailing that promotes diversity in book offerings and supports niche markets. There are other kind of approaches to the ecommerce of books in different European countries, such as (Spain), (United Kingdom) or (Sweeden).

This landscape of e-commerce for books with European roots was one of the issues that were discussed in Readmagine (2024 edition). The conversation with Mark Thornton ( and Sakari Luovio ( was curated and moderated by the Brazilian publishing consultant based in Stockholm, Carlo Carrenho.




The discussion highlighted the resilience and adaptability of e-commerce book platforms in the face of market challenges and competition from Amazon. Both and Adlibris have created unique niches by focusing on their strengths, ethical missions, and localised strategies, instead trying to compete with the giant.

The insights from Sakari Luovio and Mark Thornton revealed that the future of book retailing lies in a balanced integration of e-commerce and physical stores, with a strong focus on understanding consumer behaviour and adapting to digital trends. According to their ideas, sustainability efforts, innovative approaches to curation and customer engagement will be critical in maintaining relevance and competitiveness in the evolving marketplace.


The case of

Since 2020, provides a platform for independent bookshops that emulates Amazon’s efficiency while supporting local bookstores and operates on a commission basis: affiliated independent bookshops (there are 600) earn 30% commission on sales through the platform, while other affiliates earn 10%, with an additional 10% going into a shared pool for all bookshops on the platform.

Although is designed to divert sales from Amazon to independent bookstores, providing them with a sustainable online sales channel, Mark Thornton acknowledged that cannot compete with Amazon on price, but can focus on service and ethical consumerism, to attract customers who prefer supporting independent bookshops and highlighting the positive aspects of this initiative rather than directly competing with Amazon.

Thornton highlighted the vital relationship with brick-and-mortar bookshops, which remains at the core of their mission. The platform not only provides e-commerce capabilities to these shops but also curation, because curated lists by booksellers and authors add significant value, guiding customers in a way that large online retailers cannot. plans to launch eBooks and audiobooks, expanding its offerings to compete with giants like Amazon and Audible. Thornton noted that while subscription models dominate the market, will adopt a subscription token model for audiobooks, ensuring that independent bookstores benefit financially from digital sales. This move aims to level the playing field, providing independent bookshops with tools to compete in the digital realm while leveraging their unique strengths in curation and community engagement.


The case of Adlibris

Adlibris is the biggest e-commerce book retailer in the Nordics, with a significant presence in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Started in the late ’90s and expanded to include physical retail stores post-pandemic to maintain customer engagement. In fact, Luovio did not acknowledged Amazon as a significant competitor in the Scandinavian region due to Adlibris’ strong market presence and brand recognition. Adlibris supports the local market by offering localized services, catering to specific regional demands and preferences.

Adlibris is, indeed, a major online bookstore, which also operates a few brick-and-mortar bookstores to better understand and reach their market. Luovio emphasized that customer loyalty is not immobile; instead, businesses must continuously adapt to meet customers where they are. One example is when post-pandemic shifts saw many customers returning to offices and Adlibris decided to establish physical shops near these locations.

Luovio also argued that a significant portion of customer journeys start online, often with a simple Google search, rather than from a strong brand loyalty. Therefore, an omnichannel approach -integrating both online and physical presence- is crucial to capture the varying customer touchpoints.

Despite Sweden’s strong inclination towards subscription-based services, Adlibris maintains a transactional model for selling audiobooks and eBooks. Luovio acknowledged the present dominance of subscription models but declared to see potential in “à la carte” sales, indicating ongoing strategic evaluations and potential collaborations with partners like Kobo. This approach allows Adlibris to cater to diverse consumer preferences and maintain a foothold in the digital book market.

Video of the session:





Examining those examples and others that are taking place in Europe, seems to be clear that are in need to invest in technology for better user experience and logistic efficiency.  There would be interesting partnerships to develop good solutions, such as AI-driven recommendations, streamlined supply chains, and the most important enhanced user experiences or mobile app development and user-friendly interfaces to enhance customer engagement and retention.

As Tony Hsieh said: “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

One big challenge that all the European book e-commerce platforms face is to increase their brand awareness. In this case, running communication campaigns that would highlight the importance of supporting independent bookshops and ethical consumerism can attract more customers.

Amazon’s aggressive pricing strategies and deep discounts make it difficult for smaller platforms to match prices without compromising their margins. There are legal issues that should be look at by regulators, especially in the case of many European countries with fixed price systems. Ensuring efficient and timely delivery of orders is a critical aspect where the huge platform excels, that is why European alternatives must continuously optimize their logistics to meet the high consumer expectations.

But the most important issue may not be prizes. Jeff Bezos wrote this statement: “The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company. What we are doing now is we are building an extremely large, fulfilment network and we can have products to customers in one day.”

Therefore, the publishing industry might focus to ensure that books are in stock and available at fulfilment centres close to the customers or ready to a fast printing (POD) process. This element could be complemented with strategically located warehouses and efficient operations to quickly pick, pack, and ship orders, that could be the result of collective efforts (many independent publishers and booksellers).

Ecommerce also needs a robust and reliable transportation network that can handle rapid delivery, including partnerships with delivery services and potentially using own fleet.

Finally, once more the technology is a priority. First, it’s very important to manage with an accurate demand forecasting to ensure inventory levels are optimal and reduce delays. Also implementing advanced automation in warehouses to speed up the fulfilment process, combined with a real-time tracking and clear communication to customers regarding their order status.