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One of the industry’s biggest successes in the UK to emerge during the darkness of the Covid 19 pandemic has been the retail website Bookshop.org which has announced that it has made more than £1m in profit for independent bookshops since its launch last November.
The site is billed as the socially responsible alternative to Amazon and allows independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfront on the site, with the stores receiving the full profit margin – 30% of the cover price – from each sale. All customer service and shipping are handled by Bookshop and its distributor partners, with titles offered at a small discount and delivered within two to three days.
Since its launch in the UK last November more than 200,000 customers have used the platform and 6,000 affiliate members have joined its ranks. Bookshop.org’s UK MD Nicole Vanderbilt said: “It’s a real testament to customers caring about where they spend money and also we’re incredibly grateful to the industry and the bookshops working with us to make this work. We provided a lot of the ingredients but really the chefs, as it were, are the bookshops and publishers who’ve supported it so capably.”
The Booksellers Association (BA), which supported the site’s UK launch, has branded it a “lifeline” during the coronavirus crisis while shops have said it has enabled them to avoid furloughing staff, to pay Christmas bonuses and strengthen their online presence.
Vanderbilt added: “Overall the response has been really good and anecdotally it’s been really heart-warming to hear the role that we’ve been able to play while bookshops have been facing such challenges. We’ve seen people pay rent, have the confidence to renew leases and, in some cases, to open new bookshops, to pay bonuses, to keep staff off furlough, all these things that make a real difference to small businesses, particularly during this time. That’s why we’re doing this and that’s what matters.”
Bookshop.org was developed by the writer and co-founder of website Literary Hub, Andy Hunter (pictured above). It launched in the US in January 2020. Hunter believes the reason for Bookshop’s quick success is readers’ fondness for their local booksellers. “Bookstores have been in trouble for a while because of Amazon’s growth, but this pandemic has really accelerated it. Amazon has gotten much more powerful, while there are 100-year-old stores that are hanging on for survival,” he said. “I think we were so successful because enough people were conscious of that, and wanted to rally around their beloved bookstores, because they care about the world that we will emerge from this pandemic into.”