5.3.3: 1910 - heden - Kinds of booksellers

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the division between publishers and booksellers had become definite. A bookseller was a trader of books en detail. The diversification into various types of booksellers was at first limited to general bookshops, which often also sold stationery, and academic bookshops. The variation increased particularly in the last decades of the twentieth century. Besides the general booksellers trying to sell the widest possible range, shops were established that provided for a certain market segment (academic books, technical books, literary books, music books or comic books), a certain subject (esoteric books, hobby books, travel guides), a certain language or a certain readership (children's bookshops, women's bookshops). Besides, there was also a rapid increase in the number of station book stalls and news-stands, mainly focusing on the sale of best sellers, magazines and newspapers. The autonomy of museums and their ensuing commercialisation resulted in museum shops with a wide range of art books.

As was the case in other lines of business, large companies were formed in the book trade. Particularly after the Second World War, it became increasingly difficult for small family businesses to survive independently. The increase in scale and the rising personnel costs forced more and more bookshops to join a chain. This was the case for a number of large, mostly academic bookshops (Boekhandels Groep Nederland/Selexyz), but also for a number of general bookshops (the Libris group) and book stands (Bruna shops).

Besides the trade in new books, there are antiquarian bookshops, united in the Nederlandsche Vereniging van Antiquaren, as well as a mixed group of second-hand bookshops. The remainder bookshop has gained importance, i.e. the trade in publishers' remainders. These are sold in special shops, of which De Slegte with its large number of shops is the best-known, or in special departments in existing bookshops. The most recent appearance in the book business are the virtual bookshops which sell their books via the Internet.

The religious-political compartmentalisation which was so typical of Dutch society until the 1960s resulted in there being Catholic, Protestant and socialist bookshops in every town, partly selling their own range of books. The customers were very loyal, partly due to the advisory role of the bookseller and the fact that customers could buy on credit.

From 1907 onwards, booksellers were united in the Nederlandse Boekverkopersbond. The Catholic booksellers had their own union, the R.K. Nederlandsche Boekhandelaren- en Uitgeversvereniging Sint Jan, which in 1956 split into separate organisations of Catholic publishers and booksellers (the Nederlandse Bond van Katholieke Uitgevers and the Nederlandse Katholieke Boekverkopersbond). Their Protestant colleagues were not to be left behind and organised themselves in 1958 in the Vereniging van Protestants-Christelijke Boekverkopers. When secularisation began to increase in the seventies, these confessional organisations slowly died out. The Vereeniging ter Bevordering van de Belangen des Boekhandels remained the umbrella organisation for publishers and booksellers.

author: O.S. Lankhorst

Kinds of booksellers