Online Bookstores Take Publishing Industry by Storm

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), December 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Online Bookstores Take Publishing Industry by Storm


`Harry Potter Series,' `Rich Dad, Poor Dad' Emerge as Best-Sellers This Year -

For Korean publishers, this year was one of the most tumultuous ever, with digital technology taking the industry by storm.

At the center of the changes and upheavals were the aggressive expansion of online bookstores and the debut of e-books in the market.

Amid the transition from the analogue to digital mode of sales and publications, frictions arose between the newcomers and the establishment, as well as controversies over how and whether to newly define copyrights.

Testifying to the strong impact from digital technologies, publishers, in a survey conducted by the biweekly Korean Publishing Journal, cited the clash between online and offline bookstores during the past few last months over the ``fixed price system'' as the top news story of the publishing industry this year.

As the online bookstores made strong inroads into the market with discount prices, the offline stores, including such giants as Kyobo Book Center and Youngpoong Book Store, even boycotted the worldwide best-selling ``Harry Potter'' series in desperate efforts to protect their business turf.

Even the Culture-Tourism Ministry and Fair Trade Commission intervened in the dispute, and it was narrowly settled only after the online stores and the publisher of the Harry Porter series yielded to the pressure for the fixed price system.

In the survey conducted by the biweekly journal, the publishers also cited the publication of e-books, the rapid growth of online stores, the pending revision of the copyright laws and the frenzy over the Harry Potter series as the other major news stories of this year.

As the survey shows, the growth of online stores was spectacular, with their market share expanding to 4 percent over one year, as compared to the 2 percent that their counterparts in the United States have maintained for four years.

One of the leading online stores, ``Yes24.com,'' posted an impressive 1,500 percent of growth in its turnover this year, with Alladin Inc.recording an over 20-fold growth, according to the publishers' biweekly.

The number of the online stores also grew sharply to more than 150, up from about 50 early this year.

The boom of online stores made a striking contrast with the dismal condition of conventional bookstores in local communities.

According to the byweekly, the number of conventional bookstores across the nation declined 25 percent, from 4,595 last year to 3,450 this year.

The flamboyant debut of e-books was another big issue of this year.

Even Yi Mun-yol, one of the bestselling writers in the country, granted his blessing to the new publishing media by putting his ``Hanulgil (A Way to Heaven)'' on sale via www.everbook.com in October.

However, the number of those who downloaded it totaled just 1,122 as of this Monday, with other books on the website still having poor sales records.

The lackluster performance of e-books has punctured the initial enthusiasm and expectations, and cynicism about the new media now prevails over the publishing industry.

However, the government, particularly the Information-Communications Ministry, is still putting its hopes on the potential of e-books as a new industry and is poised to invest about 23. …

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Online Bookstores Take Publishing Industry by Storm
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