Non-essential shops have had to close due to the lockdown restrictions that started earlier this month. This includes bookshops. While giants such as Waterstones will probably come out the other end, many independent booksellers are at risk.
The closure of bookshops doesn’t mean people don’t want to read. If anything, people have more time to indulge in the books they’ve been meaning to read. So, the obvious solution is to buy books online. Amazon is well known as the leading bookseller worldwide. When it launched in 1995, its only function was as a website to purchase books. This has obviously evolved into much more, but even 25 years later, it is the leading online bookseller. While convenient, Amazon does not help to support your local business. So, what is the solution?
The main aim is to deliver books while also supporting independent booksellers
This week, Bookshop.org has launched in the UK. This website was previously only available in the US, however it has been brought to the UK a little earlier than expected due to the lockdown and ever-growing popularity of reading. The main aim is to deliver books while also supporting independent booksellers. It has been described as a “revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling.”
Participating bookstores can create a storefront on the website. This includes a little bit of information about the store and the books that they sell. The customer can buy books on the site either by searching for the book name or for looking for their local stores on a map. This is very good as it enables small businesses which may not be well known or have their own website to be noticed by booklovers from any part of the UK.
The website only started running in January in the US. However, thanks to the pandemic, it quickly blew up. By June, Bookshop was selling $1 million worth of books a day!
If you are considering buying some books for yourself, or as presents, it is very worthwhile checking out Bookshop before committing to Amazon
The full profit margin of 30% from each sale goes to the local booksellers. If you search for a specific bookshop, the profits will all go there, if not, they will be pooled and distributed to your local booksellers. In this way, the booksellers that are now closed, can continue to make money. Bookshop takes care of all the customer service and postage.
The founder of Bookshop, Andy Hunter says “it’s been a wild ride.” With a total of 5 employees at the start of the year, they had their work cut out to perfect the site rapidly. However, he says that all the work was worth it as “the whole time we were getting messages from stores saying, ‘Thank God you came along, you’ve paid our rent, you’ve paid our health insurance this year.’ If you’re going to have to work in insane circumstances and with huge amounts of stress, it’s good to be doing it in something you feel good about.”
Over 130 booksellers have already signed up to be on the UK Bookshop site, with over 200 expected by the end of the year.
I think that it is very important to support small businesses, especially during these difficult times. If you are considering buying some books for yourself, or as presents, it is very worthwhile checking out Bookshop before committing to Amazon. Purchasing from Bookshop will mean that the profits of the book go to your local independent stores, rather than to Amazon.
This being said, I appreciate that it is not possible for everyone. Understandably, the range of books available on Bookshop is not as varied as on Amazon which has virtually any book you could ever want. The price of books will also differ and so it may sometimes be cheaper to buy from Amazon, especially if they have a sale on. Amazon also offers next day delivery for prime members for most items. This could be another factor as to why people would be more inclined to shop there, especially if they have left Christmas shopping to the last minute.
For these reasons, I think it will be a while until Bookshop can be viewed as a serious competitor to the likes of Amazon. It is definitely not impossible – however, it would require more bookshops to take part and more customers to choose to shop locally.