Why the lack of online books is good for publishers in Azerbaijan
There’s barely a market for electronic books in Azerbaijan, publishing houses are in no hurry to start online sales, and they have pertinent arguments against it.
The months-long coronavirus has has made no difference in the development of online sales, nor is the coming autumn likely to do so with its possibility of a second lockdown.
Azerbaijan has lived through one quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the people learned how to purchase all their necessities online. Literally everything is sold online now, from clothes to groceries.
Everything, that is, except electronic books.
Books can be bought, but only printed books
The websites of Azerbaijani book stores offer many different editions for sale. One pays with a credit card and waits for delivery.
But no one is guaranteed swift delivery of the books they have ordered.
This author once waited 20 days for a book he had already paid for. The book stores explain these delays as caused by the large number of orders, the lack of workers, and the ordinary difficulties of delivery.
During the quarantine, when it was illegal to drive in the streets without registering on a specially-created website, the police would detain even internationally-known postal service vehicles, to say nothing of book couriers.
In almost the whole rest of the world, you can get a book in electronic format without waiting for someone to bring you a printed copy.
So what is stopping Azerbaijani publishers from sorting this issue?
The electronic versions do exist, but…
According to Shahbaz Khuduoglu, director of the publishing house Qanun, there are no technical problems in this area. Rather, all the books in our time inherently exist in electronic format, which means they only have to put the on the site so they can be sold. But here’s where problems of a different sort arise.
“In our country, there’s no good copyright laws. Even our modest attempts to sell electronic books nearly always led to the market being flooded with pirated copies”, complained Khuduoglu in an interview with JAMnews.
He added that Azerbaijan will have to start using this method of selling books which is so common in the wider world, sooner or later. But first and foremost they have to figure out how to deal with piracy.
Many book-lovers in Azerbaijan speak about the high prices of books. The average price of a popular book goes for somewhere between 10 and 20 manat (around $6-12). With a minimum wage in the country being around 250 manat (around $147), for most people buying a book at that price is an unimaginable luxury.
“I am a student, and I receive a scholarship for exceptional grades totaling 130 manat (around $76.5). I won’t allow myself to buy a book, they’re just too expensive for me. Of course, electronic books are three or four times cheaper than printed ones, which would be fine for my wallet”, says Zhalya, who is studying in one of Baku’s universities.
“They don’t even buy them on sale”
“We often have sales on books. People seem to be interested in books that are sold for one manat (about $0.6). I will personally tell them what the books are about. And after all that, they will ask me to sell the book at an even lower price”, says Khuduoglu.
In his opinion, there is not a book-lover culture in Azerbaijan. In a situation like that, selling electronic books along with printed books is not the best idea.
“We tried selling electronic books. Even now we have a couple of decent ones on our site. I watch the numbers. Only three or four of them sell every month”.
The market sets its own conditions
Publishing house Qanun’s director agrees that no matter what, they have to figure out how to sell electronic books.
“It is a world-wide trend, and we have to join in some time. People have got used to buying everything online. We can’t leave books unavailable in that arena”.
Publishing house TEAS Press echoed that sentiment.
“We are considering selling electronic books. Not in the nearest future, however. It is necessary to go through all the nuances of international norms and the demands of the electronic marketplace.
In other words, we must prepare ourselves to take this step”, responded the publishing house to JAMnews’ query.