The news of a second UK lockdown hit bookshops hard, with both chain and indie stores struggling to hit sales targets and unable to trade during what is usually the busiest time of the year. Luckily, Bookshop.org has been launched by indie booksellers as a potential game-changer, with over 150 UK bookshops already having signed up to the site pre-launch.
The site, which first launched in the US in January, has raised over $7.5m for independent bookshops in the States. The launch of the UK equivalent was pushed forward in response to the announcement of a second lockdown in most parts of the UK. Bookshop.Org is a true alternative to Amazon, with “[b]ooks… offered to consumers at a small discount and delivered within 2-3 days.”
It is widely recognised within the publishing community that Amazon has been a longstanding and unrivalled competitor to independent booksellers, a notion that has only been magnified throughout the pandemic. Nicole Vanderbilt, UK Managing Director at Bookshop.org and formerly International VP at Etsy, added:
“At a time when Amazon has enjoyed even greater advantage over high street competitors as a result of the pandemic, Bookshop.org offers a socially conscious alternative to customers wishing to shop online, while supporting bookshops in competing in an ecommerce environment.”
Just nine days after its launch, Bookshop.org raised £100,000 for bookshops across the UK, demonstrating the importance of both indie bookstores and ethical shopping more broadly.
At no extra cost to the bookshops, Bookshop.org offers an additional revenue stream while handling the customer service and shipping.
“Bookshop.org offers an ethical online marketplace that ensures independent bookshops receive the full profit margin (30% of the cover price) from each sale they generate on the platform. Books are offered to consumers at a small discount and delivered within 2–3 days.”
As well as supporting indie bookshops, Bookshop.org also supports the wider bookish community who can join its affiliate scheme:
“Bookshop.org customers will also be able to browse book recommendation lists created by authors, influencers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, book prizes and beyond, with anyone able to create a book recommendation page to share suggestions with their friends, fans or followers, while still supporting independent bookshops. Non-bookshop affiliates that create their own pages on Bookshop earn 10% of the RRP for every book purchased through Bookshop.Org, with independent bookshops likewise receiving 10%.”
Recreating the sense of community so often found in bookshops has been a key element in the site’s success. The Bookshop.org browsing experience has been designed to replicate that of a brick and mortar bookstore, with recommendations from publishers, bloggers and authors offering a more intimate and personal shopping experience than one consisting only of bestsellers. Considering every element of what is special to shoppers, the site even allows customers to ponder over a ‘store-front’ style page for each independent bookshop, including virtual tables of recommended books.
Bookshop.org has been welcomed with an overwhelmingly positive response, with over 300 bookshops signed up, exceeding the 200 that were expected to have signed up by the end of 2020. After an incredibly turbulent year, Bookshop.org appears to have handed back some control to both booksellers and consumers alike. Andy Rossiter, of Rossiter Books, commented:
“Being an Independent Bookseller has for so many years been such a David v Goliath battle that it feels slightly disconcerting when someone at last hands you a bazooka instead of you peppering away with your slingshot!”
Publishers have also been expressing their enthusiasm for the new medium, with Stephen Page, Chief Executive at Faber, stating:
“The arrival of Bookshop.Org solves a missing piece of our rich ecology of bookselling in the UK, with the establishment of a brilliant online partner for our thriving independent bookselling community.”
“2020 has challenged the literary community to face unprecedented hurdles, however it is certain that Bookshop.Org provides a revolutionary platform that will allow independent bookshops to continue to thrive and consumers to continue supporting the stores that they love while shopping online.”
During this vital period, you can support bookshops by either purchasing from them directly, or buying through Bookshop.Org, where they earn 30% commission on all sales.