Booksellers must find new ways to engage with their audience and Kieron Smith, digital director at Blackwell’s, said his firm is meeting the challenge head on.

Blackwell’s is the UK’s largest academic bookseller and has been selling book online since 1995.

“We’ve faced a number of challenges ever since,” he said, speaking at RBTE 2016 on Thursday, where he outlined potential changes in his firm’s approach.

“We’re looking at a significant change in our web platform,” he said. “It will be a completely new website, but it will be an iterative process and we hope to keep learning.”

Smith said challenges for traditional booksellers include the growth of online-only specialists, the continuing rise in the number of titles and a fast-changing market place. Smith said 2,500 books were published in the United States every year in the 1880s; today, that figures stands at about 300,000.

Further change has come through the growth of self-publishing, where there is often limited editorial standards and varied levels of quality.

Smith, however, is keen to overcome the challenges. “We have to try and extend the supply-chain as much as possible,” he said.

Attention so far has focused on back-end systems, including supply chain processes and the introduction of a new data centre.

When it comes to the front end, Smith is keen to improve the quality of online interactions. A new pricing and availability model is already in place. The new web site is in production and should launch later this year.

“We haven’t got all the answers but we’re hoping to address some of these challenges when we launch our new website,” he said. “We really want to use our experience and knowledge as a means to differentiate from our competitors.”

Smith is keen to find ways for his firm’s knowledgeable and passionate staff to interact with consumers online. The firm also runs thousands of events connected to books ever year.

“We’re always creating content,” he said. “Different customers have different needs at particular times. Having a world expert in the chain is something we should be shouting about.”