Bookshop.org: Amazon’s newest rival
Imogen Williams discusses the launch of uk.bookshop.org, an independent bookseller to rival Amazon.
After it’s astonishing success in the US, Bookshop.org has crossed the pond and opened for UK bookworms to relish. I opened up the site under the guise of ‘research’ for this article, for what must have been the hundredth time since its launch, and I realised after an hour of browsing that I still had not typed a word or strung a thought, so engrossed was I in the website’s magnificence and joy.
Looking for a way to support independent bookshops as their battle against online retailers, like Amazon, continues, Andy Hunter, writer and co-founder of Literary Hub, started Bookshop.org from his home with a team of just four people. Little did he know there was a pandemic around the corner which would force virtually the whole world to sit still for months and rediscover reading. Whilst turning over just $50,000 in the whole of February, by June, Bookshop.org had hit a record of $1m worth of sales in a day. Despite demand for books soaring since the pandemic, the strong message of ‘stay home’ and the closure of non-essential businesses lead to a surge in books being purchased on Amazon and a significant decline in business for independent bookshops. Bookshop.org has come along at just the right time to help save the beloved independents of villages, towns and cities across the country.
The site has partnered with nearly 200 bookshops in the UK and allows each shop to present a ‘shopfront’ and categorise books in the way they would in-store. The aim is to re-create the feeling of perusing a shop and finding beautiful books rather than the soulless and targeted one-click experience that Amazon offers. You can choose to buy a book directly from a specific local bookshop with the entirety of the purchase profits going to that shop, or you can search by the book and your payment will be added to a pool of earnings which subsequently gets evenly distributed to delightful and deserving independents.
It is so important, particularly in the current climate, that small, local businesses receive support. It is real people and families who are reliant on their success. Andy Hunter has received countless messages since founding Bookshop in which people have expressed their gratitude for this support system and explained how it has allowed them to get by in recent times. The impacts of the pandemic are devastating for some families and it is important to remember that by shopping local you are directly helping a family to put food on the table and pay their rent. Yet another Amazon purchase however simply increases Jeff Bezos’ already staggering net worth of $183.6 billion.
I am a huge advocate of the mission of this growing company and I implore you all to think carefully and considerately next time you purchase a book and to support local. Here’s to still being able to lose hours browsing books and delighting in their existence – long may it last, pandemic or no pandemic.