The bricks-and-mortar book market has struggled as much in Spain as anywhere on the globe during the Covid-19 crisis, with sales only rebounding in 2021 after vaccines became widely available. Logista, Spain’s primary book distributor, played its part in the fight against the virus, storing and distributing masks and other PPE, as well as some vaccines. In addition, with the spike in online book orders, the company saw a significant increase in its overall distribution business in 2020 and the first part of 2021.
Logista operates a huge warehouse facility in Cabonillas del Campo, approximately an hour outside of Madrid. With more than 710,000 sq. ft. of warehousing space, the facility handles some 55 million books per year and fulfills 1.8 million orders annually. “We keep 300,000 titles in stock and make more than 850,000 deliveries to 8,000 book distribution points—bookstores, kiosks and other points of sale—annually,” says Arturo Álvaro Benito, head of sales for the company.
Logista offers direct-to-consumer fulfillment for publishing clients including Planeta, Wolters Kluwer, Kalandranka, Lantia, and Panamerica. It also provides distribution support for Baker & Taylor in Spain and throughout Europe, and operates businesses in France, Italy, Poland, and Portugal. “With our network, we offer publishers capillarity, the ability to branch out,” Benito says. “Our focus is on traceability and transparency.” Logista’s largest retail client is Casa del Libro, the top bookstore chain in Spain, which was founded in 1923 and operates 47 bookstores throughout the country.
“As you would expect, we saw a huge spike in online orders for all our clients last year and into this year as a result of lockdowns and the pandemic,” Benito says. “It was a challenge for us, but we were able to meet it.”
The nearly 3,500 independent bookstores in Spain were forced to quickly adapt to the pandemic conditions. The vast majority of Spanish indies are small, with only approximately 40 having a turnover of €1.5 million or more, according to the newspaper El Pais. In August 2020, the Spanish government approved €4 million of support for indie bookstores. Though the industry is supported by a fixed book price law, which means online discounting is limited to a maximum of 5%, Amazon has become a significant bookseller and has been blamed, along with aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis, for numerous bookstore closures in the past 10 years. At one point in 2020, with lockdowns in effect and bookstores closed, 70% of books were being purchased online, and of those, nearly half were bought at Amazon, according to the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España, a publishing trade group.
In the past year, two websites have launched to help the indies compete with Amazon. Last November, the Spanish Confederation of Booksellers Guilds and Associations (Cegal) launched Todostuslibros.com, which allows customers to buy books online and pick them up at any of 800 indie bookstores. And in June, Bookshop.org opened in Spain, using the same model it has employed in the U.S., offering direct fulfillment to customers while crediting a percentage of each sale to affiliate bookstores and returning a percentage of profits to the entire pool of participating stores. So far, sales through the site have generated nearly €20,000 for indie stores.
“As bricks-and-mortar stores, we are always fighting to survive,” says Enrique Pascual Pons, head of the Madrid Booksellers Association and director of the venerable Marcial Pons bookstore, a highly regarded academic bookstore in Madrid known for its selection of international titles. “The support we have gotten from the government is welcome, but neighborhood bookstores continue to close, particularly as rents around the cities increase.”
Among the support Pons would like to see implemented are tax breaks and rent concessions for bookstores. “As an association, we make it our mission to let people know just how much a bookstore contributes to the fabric of a community,” he notes. “As bookstores, we provide a valuable service, one that is not easily replaced by someone selling exclusively online.”