Siop Cwlwm, the only Welsh shop in England, located in Oswestry, is one of 130 UK bookshops to have signed up to Bookshop (www.Bookshop.org): a new online platform launching today to help bookshops take on Amazon in the critical Christmas shopping season, and beyond.
Independent bookshops, facing an existential threat due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have been given a powerful new tool to allow their loyal customers to support them by buying through Bookshop.org when they shop for books online.
With varying lockdown measures currently being enforced across the UK, including complete bookshop closures in Ireland and Wales, many independent bookshops are now facing a very uncertain sales period in the all-important run-up to Christmas after an already challenging year.
Bookshop was founded with the belief that independent bookshops are vital to our culture. As consumers are increasingly realising that where they spend their money matters, Bookshop.org offers an entirely new approach to online shopping, giving customers the power to support the local high street when they buy books online.
Bookshop.org offers an ethical online marketplace for socially conscious online shoppers that ensures independent bookshops receive the full profit margin (30 per cent 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.
With over 130 British bookshops already signed up from all corners of the UK since it opened the site to them just over two weeks ago, the launch of Bookshop has been welcomed by independent booksellers and publishers, with industry members describing it as “[a] revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling in the UK” and “the establishment of a brilliant online partner for our thriving independent bookselling community”.
Bookshop.org first launched in the USA in January and has already raised over $7.5m for independent bookshops in the States. Bookshop.org has brought forward its UK launch in response to the significant impact of the pandemic on independent retailers, which has seen Amazon enjoying an even greater advantage over the high street. Now more than ever, UK Bookshops need support from online sales in the busy pre-Christmas shopping period.
Bringing a human touch to online shopping, the Bookshop.org browsing experience mirrors the joy of discovering a new book in a physical bookshop. Bookshop is able to do this because it is curated by real book experts – including booksellers, authors, publishers and influencers – as opposed to an algorithm, helping book lovers to discover books and authors beyond bestseller lists. Customers can explore each independent bookshop’s ‘store-front’ style page, browsing virtual tables of recommended books as they would instore.
Co-owner of Siop Cwlwm, Lowri Roberts, said: “We are delighted to be a part of this exciting new online platform, enabling customers to support their local bookshop – which has never been more important.”
Bookshop.org founder and CEO, Andy Hunter, said: “Bookshops are essential to a healthy culture, and online sales are vital to safeguarding their future. We can’t afford to lose them. COVID-19 has added further urgency to the need for bookshops to compete for online sales. Bookshop.org’s mission is to empower customers in supporting local, brick and mortar bookstores, providing book buyers with an easy way to shop online while continuing to support their local high street.”
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. We’re delighted to be launching in the UK and look forward to working with bookshops, publishers, authors, and beyond across the UK, while offering customers an entirely new online shopping experience.”
Bookshop.org offers independent bookshops another revenue stream, without any financial investment on the bookseller’s part, as all customer service and shipping will be handled by Bookshop and Gardners book distributors.
With 200 bookshops expected to sign up by the end of the year, reactions from British bookshops have been positive. 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!”
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 per cent of the RRP for every book purchased through Bookshop, with independent bookshops likewise receiving 10 per cent.
Alexandra Shulman, ex-Vogue editor and author commented “I love my favourite independent bookshops because it’s often easier to discover new authors as you don’t feel so overwhelmed by the choice in some chain stores. They are lovely to browse in.”
Publishers in the UK, particularly having observed the impact of Bookshop.org in the US, are similarly heartened by the arrival of Bookshop.org in the UK – Atlantic Books, Faber, Picador, Jacaranda, Fitzcarraldo Editions and Andersen Press and more have already signed up to the site.
Philip Gwyn Jones, Publisher at Picador, said: “Like every publisher of long standing, I tend to be an incorrigible – some would say deluded – optimist, but nonetheless I am finding it impossible not to see the arrival of Bookshop as being a positively revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling in the UK, and in the evolution of the relationship between writers and readers.”
Stephen Page, Chief Executive at Faber, said: “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.”
Will Atkinson, MD and Publisher at Atlantic Books, said: “Bookshop.org has proven a successful formula and I am delighted they have arrived in this country. Atlantic will be doing everything we can to support them as they launch and then as partners in the future.”
Bookshop is a B Corporation, created with the mission to benefit the public good by contributing to the welfare of the independent literary community. It is written into Bookshop’s bylaws that it can never be sold to a major US retailer, including Amazon.