Described as a “revolutionary moment in bookselling history”: a socially conscious alternative to Amazon that allows readers to buy books online with the support of a local independent bookseller. After a hugely successful launch in the US, it has opened in the UK today.
The bookstore was dreamed of by writer and co-founder of Literary Hub, Andy Hunter. It allows independent bookstores to create their own virtual storefront on the site, with stores taking a full profit margin – 30% of the cover price – from each sale. All customer services and shipping are handled by Bookshop and its reseller partners, with addresses offered at a small discount and delivered within two to three days.
“It was a road trip,” said Hunter, who launched the site in the US in January. “Five weeks after what we thought would be a six-month period of improvement and improvement and making small changes, the Covid-19 virus struck and suddenly we started a massive business.”
It initially started with 250 bookstores, and now has more than 900 stores in the United States. “We went from selling 50,000 dollars (38,000 pounds sterling) books every February, to 50,000 dollars a day in March, and then 150,000 dollars a day in April,” Hunter said. By June, Bookshop had sold books worth $ 1 million a day. The platform has now raised more than $ 7.5 million (£ 5.7 million) for independent bookstores across the United States.
“We were four employees plus me, working around the house, getting up as early as possible and going to bed as late as possible, trying to get everything working. It was a real ride,” Hunter said. But it was so fun because we were all the time We were getting letters from stores saying, “Thank God, you attended, you paid our rent, you paid our health insurance this year.” If you are going to have to work in crazy conditions and with massive amounts of stress, it is a good idea to do it in something you feel good about. .
The Library is a B Corporation, created with the aim of “benefiting the public good by contributing to the well-being of the independent literary community”. The rules state that it can never be sold to a large US retailer, including Amazon.
Hunter believes Bookshop’s rapid success is due to readers’ fondness for local booksellers. “Bookstores have been in trouble for a while because of the growth of Amazon, but this epidemic has really accelerated its growth. Amazon is getting more powerful, while there are 100-year-old stores on hold to survive,” he said. “I think we were very successful because enough people were aware of this and wanted to circle around their beloved libraries, because they care about the world in which we are emerging from this epidemic.”
Hunter was planning to launch Bookshop in the UK in 2021 or 2022. But after seeing the platform’s success in the US, UK stores, publishers and authors asked him to increase the schedule. Bookshop.org will launch in the UK on Monday, with more than 130 UK libraries already registered and with 200 libraries expected to be in place by the end of the year. The company’s British arm will be managed by General Manager Nicole Vanderbilt, former international vice president of Etsy.
“If you don’t get there before Christmas, and you give people a way to support their stores and buy their gift books, it would be really disastrous for the stores, which is why we did our best to get them,” Hunter said.
The bookstores do not make any financial investment, all customer services and shipping are handled by Bookshop, and in the UK, by distributor Gardners. The browsing experience aims to “reverse the joy of discovering a new book in a physical library,” the company says, with experts, not algorithms, who coordinate. Each freelancer joins their own “storefront” page, where customers can browse virtual tables of recommended books. For example, a user can see what the owner of The Shetland Times library (“The Public Book Library in the far north in Britain, 60 degrees north and closer to Norway than London”) personally recommends, in lists like “The Cool and Funny Picture Books I I read to the library staff, and books to help you move forward with your life.
British booksellers and publishers welcomed her arrival. “Being a freelance bookseller for many years has been like David vs. Goliath’s fight so much that he gets a little anxious when someone finally hands you a bazooka rather than throwing your slingshot out,” said Andy Rossiter of Rossiter Books in Ross On.
The book library was described by Philip Gwynn Jones, publisher at Picador, as “a positive revolutionary moment in the history of UK bookselling, and in the evolution of the relationship between writers and readers”.
“It’s hard for us to compete with someone who has their own warehouse and sometimes sells books at a loss, or with very small profit margins. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. It’s good that Bookshop.org is going to compete with Amazon in a way that no,” said Georgia Eckert, of Imagined Things Library in Harrogate We can alone or even collectively. ”You should have access, a big enough site, run by an appropriate team of people dedicated to it. We all run our own businesses and have no time to do so. “
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