By Harriet Cunningham
Are you a voracious reader keen to support independent bookshops while topping up your TBR (to be read) list? Or a socially-conscious shopper looking to peruse bestsellers and new authors alike in order to fill up your bookshelves? For all of your book browsing wants and needs, look no further than Bookshop.org, the bibliophile’s dream and revolutionary website launched in the UK and US in 2020 which “unites rivals to rival Amazon” (The Guardian).
In today’s post-pandemic world, over 60% of all books are now purchased via the web (Retail Times). Partnered with 570 independent bookshops to date and offering readers the ability to order books at the click of a button, Bookshop.org describes itself as “an online book shop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.”
Shopping via Bookshop.org is a simple way for readers to support independent bookshops via the web. Readers may select a specific bookshop to support, meaning that the shop will receive 30% of the cover price on their orders for a year. Alternatively, 10% of the cover price of the order will contribute to an earnings pool that is evenly distributed among participating independent bookshops each month.
Bookshop.org handles administrative, customer service and postal tasks on behalf of the independent bookshops, freeing up their time to spend on the things we value so much about our indies, such as organising author talks, recommending upcoming titles, connecting authors with readers and building bookworm communities.
Bookshop.org also offers curated lists of titles, such as “Indie Champions: Top 25,” “New Releases” and “Booker Prize Longlist 2023,” very much championing authors all the while. “Book of the Month” and “Children’s Book of the Month” also seek to whet our reading appetites, spotlighting a different book each month with the aim of sharing new works and authors.
Unsurprisingly, Bookshop.org has soared in popularity in recent years, helping to nurture the culture around books and reading that independent bookshops embody by sharing enthusiasm, supporting authors and bringing community back to the art of reading.
In fact, the site recently announced that it has generated £3 million in profit for the bookshops since its launch, signifying the growing prominence of the brand in the online book space, as well as the desire of readers to support small businesses and bookshops. Not only that, but the site has also signified its aim to increase online sales for indies by five times by 2028.
A recent survey from the Booksellers Association highlights the growing importance of online presence for independent bookshops in the UK. For example, online sales constitute 7% of overall revenue and over half of independent bookshops report that they aim to prioritise the growth of their online sales by over 20% in the next year alone (Retail Times). This is where Bookshop.org steps in, with tools and platforms to help boost indie bookshops’ ecommerce. Bookshop.org aims to help independent bookshops to grow their online sales significantly, through direct sales and providing support with ecommerce and digital skillsets.
Nicole Vanderbilt, Managing Director of Bookshop.org UK, said the following:
“Whether on our TikTok shop or on the curated lists on our website, we pride ourselves on experimenting and being at the leading edge of new uses of technology for selling books. But we can’t do this on our own: we need publishers, authors, partners, bookshops and readers themselves to embrace our cause. Bookshops are primed and ready on our platform, we need the book world to change their ways. We believe that a world where independent bookshops are successful businesses, with a robust online presence, is a better world for everyone.”
Having flourished in the physical book market, Bookshop.org now plans to foray into the eBook and audio space. For the first time, Bookshop.org hopes that independent bookshops will soon be able to offer eBooks and audiobooks to their customers via the platform.
The ethos of Bookshop.org is one that all readers hold dear: keeping local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities. Bookshop.org is encouraging players in the wider book industry – be it authors, publishers, influencers, partners, conference organisers etc. – to spread the word about their platform and support independent bookshops to expand digitally. We can do this through using the platform itself, sharing book recommendations via social media and engaging with independent bookshops via socials.
Just what does the future hold for this exciting platform? We can’t wait to find out!