Bookshop.org – which first launched in the US early this year – is officially live in the UK and is now in partnership with over 130 indie bookshops and it is set to challenge Amazon’s online supremacy.
The man behind this new initiative is writer and co-founder of Literary Hub – Andy Hunter – who in January 2020 launched the site in the US with around 250 shops – increasing to more than 900 in a matter of months. Bookshop – which is a B Corporation dedicated to the public good – by June sold $1m worth of books in a day, and has now raised $7.5m (the equivalent of £5.7m) in the US alone.
Atlantic Books, Faber, Picador, Jacaranda, Fitzcarraldo Editions and Andersen Press are among the first UK publishers to have signed for this new initiative.
Bookshop and UK-based distributor Gardners will organise customer service, shipping and books will be sold at a small discount and dispatched within two or three days.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Hunter. “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.”
Bookshop.org is set to challenge online retail giant Amazon in an effort to save independent bookshops which feel pressured by Amazon dominance – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Georgia Eckert, from Imagined Things bookshop in Harrogate said to The Guardian: “It’s hard for us to compete with someone that’s got its own warehouse and sells books sometimes at a loss, or at very small profit margins.
“We just can’t do that. So it’s nice that Bookshop.org is going to rival Amazon in a way we couldn’t on our own or even collectively.”
The partnership with Bookshop.org will allow local independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfronts, as well as receive 30% commission of the price from each sale – whether through Bookshop, social media or their own websites.
Anyone with a passion for books – from professional authors to book enthusiasts – can become an affiliate and start their own virtual bookshops. Visitors will be able to scroll through dedicated book sections and recommended books lists created by authors, influencers, journalists, and others.
Each non-bookshop affiliate that creates pages on Bookshop.org would then be able to earn 10% of the recommended retail price for every book purchased through the website, with indie bookshops also receiving 10% – which will be evenly distributed among them.
Bookshop’s aim is to create a community of readers who get together to give indie bookshops a dedicated marketplace and a wider audience.
As emphasised by the official website: “We believe that bookshops are essential to a healthy culture.
“They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime.
“They’re also anchors for our high streets and communities”
“We hope that Bookshop.org can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities”
Bookshop UK will be under the direction of Nicole Vanderbit, former Etsy vice-president. The launch, which was originally planned for 2021 or 2022, was anticipated after seeing the enormous success in the US. And with Christmas upon us, expectations are high.
As Hunter stated: “If you don’t get there before Christmas, and give people a way to support their stores and buy their gift books, then it’s gonna be really catastrophic for shops, which is why we’ve scrambled all hands on deck to get it up”.
Since its launch, Bookshop. Com has already raised more than £20,000 and it is expected to reach 200 indie bookshop affiliates by the end of 2020.
By Irene Bisoni
Feature image: Melville House Books