Amazon-challenging online book retailer fast-tracks UK launch

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2 min read
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 29, 2020: People shop at a Respublica bookstore. The Respublica bookstore chain was founded by Dymov Group owner Vadim Dymov in 2006. The chain has decided to file for bankruptcy, as it is unable to fulfill its obligations to creditors due to decline in traffic and shortfall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS (Photo by Vyacheslav Prokofyev\TASS via Getty Images)
With 150 indie bookshops and publishers onboard, the retailer is looking to sign up 200 booksellers by the end of the year. Photo: Vyacheslav Prokofyev\TASS via Getty Images

A new Amazon (AMZN) challenger has emerged in the online book-selling market, as Bookshop launches in the UK today.

With 150 independent bookshops and publishers onboard, the retailer is looking to sign up 200 booksellers by the end of the year.

Publishing partners already include indie heavyweights such as Faber & Faber, Atlantic and Picador.

The new company fast-tracked its UK launch after booming success in the US earlier this year.

Founded by writer and co-founder of Literary Hub, Andy Hunter, it’s pitting itself as an ethical alternative to Amazon.

Hunter told The Guardian the platform went from selling $50,000 (£38,000) worth of books in all of February, to selling $50,000 a day in March, then $150,000 a day in April.

By June, the platform sold $1m of books in a day and has now raised more than $7.5m for indie bookshops across the US.

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The idea is the company gives bookshops the full profit margin of 30% of the cover price when selling on the platform. Books come at a small discount, with all shipping and customer service handled by the website.

The website will also act as a kind of book social network, offering book recommendation lists curated by authors, influencers, publishers and journalists. Anyone will be able to create a recommendation page to share suggestions.

Non-bookshop affiliates creating pages on the website will earn 10% of the RRP of every book bought through it, with indies also getting a 10% share.

Founder and CEO Andy Hunter told publishing trade publication The Bookseller: “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.”

Bookshop is a B corporation, and its rules state it can never be sold to Amazon.

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