Indies unite: the new online bookshop set to rival Amazon

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  • With the challenges of recent months, it’s perhaps no surprise that now more than ever people are looking online for their next read.

    Now the guilt we feel at passing over our favourite independent bookshop can soon be assuaged.

    Described as a ‘revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling’, Bookshop.org has now gone online this week in partnership with over 130 shops.

    The site has accelerated its UK plans after launching in the US with great success earlier this year.

    What is Bookshop.org?

    Bookshop.org is a socially conscious alternative to Amazon. The revolutionary site allows readers to purchase their books online, all while still supporting their local indie booksellers. 

    Independent bookshops can create their own virtual shopfronts on the site. The stores receive the full 30% of the cover price profit margin from each sale made. 

    And whilst this lends the site a more independent and personal feel, it also streamlines the process for the indies. Bookshop and its distributor partners handle shipping and customer service. Titles are delivered within 2-3 days and are offered at a small discount.  

    Whose idea was it?

    Bookshop is the creation of Andy Hunter, writer and co-founder of Literary Hub. And the speed with which his idea has taken off in the US since January and now launched in the UK is somewhat mind-blowing.

    He has reportedly told The Guardian, “It’s been a wild ride,” adding that, “five weeks into what we thought was going to be a six-month period of refining and improving and making small changes, Covid-19 hit and then suddenly we were doing massive business.”

    Now the site has more than 900 stores signed up to it in the US, compared to the still impressive 250 bookshops at first.

    “We went from selling $50,000 (£38,000) worth of books in all of February, to selling $50,000 a day in March, then $150,000 a day in April,” Hunter added. 

    Amazon vs Indies

    Speaking about the dominance of Amazon over online book sales, Hunter stated that, “Bookstores have been in trouble for a while because of Amazon’s growth”. He went on to say how the pandemic has accelerated this.

    He remarked upon how Amazon has become more powerful. Meanwhile, independent bookshops that have been established for decades are “hanging on for survival”.

    Bookshop, indie bookseller

    However, it is this which Hunter suggested was the cause of Bookshop’s popularity. “I think we were so successful because enough people were conscious of that, and wanted to rally around around their beloved bookstores,” he said. He added that “they care about the world that we emerge from this pandemic into.”

    UK Launch Date

    Originally the UK launch was planned for 2021 or 2022 after the initial US launch in January 2020. But the great success and rapid growth of the platform inspired UK shops, publishers and authors to request it sooner. Hunter also acknowledged that they “scrambled all hands on desk to get it up” in time for the Christmas gift-buying rush where shoppers could support their local stores. 

    Having only launched on 2 November, more than 130 British bookshops are already signed up. 200 more are expected by the end of 2020.

    How did the UK book industry react?

    British booksellers and publishers have welcomed the launch with open arms. Philip Gwyn Jones, publisher at Picador, has described Bookshop as “a positively revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling in the UK”. 

    Meanwhile several indie bookshop owners including Georgia Eckhert, whose Imagined Things bookshop is in Harrogate, said, “it’s nice that Bookshop.org is going to rival Amazon in a way we couldn’t on our own or even collectively.”

    So when you’re looking for your next big read or even a present for a loved one, it seems that Bookshop.org is definitely the way to go. 

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