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Independent bookshops join forces to rival Amazon

Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter
·2-min read

Independent bookshops have joined forces to back the launch of a new online retailer taking on Amazon in the run-up to Christmas.

More than 150 UK bookshops have signed up to serve customers through Bookshop.org, an online platform billing itself as an alternative to Amazon for “socially conscious online shoppers”.

The site, which launches in the UK on Monday, launched in the US in January and rapidly grew in the face of the pandemic, raising 7.5 million dollars (£5.8 million) for independent US bookshops.

The platform said it works as a marketplace for independent stores, ensuring they receive the full profit margin (30% of the cover price) from each sale.

Books are offered to consumers at a small discount and delivered within two to three days, it said.

It comes as high street retailers face local restrictions – including the complete lockdown of bookshops in Ireland and Wales – which could hamper trade ahead of Christmas.

Nevertheless, demand for books has been strong throughout lockdown, with publisher Bloomsbury reporting its highest profits for 12 years last month as people sought reading material to keep them occupied during lockdown.

Bookshop.org founder and chief executive Andy Hunter said: “Bookshops are essential to a healthy culture, and online sales are vital to safeguarding their future.

“Covid-19 has added further urgency to the need for bookshops to compete for online sales.”

The UK operation has been launched by former Etsy international boss Nicole Vanderbilt.

Bridport Bookshop, Bridport 2
The Book Shop in Bridport, Dorset, is one independent retailer backing the platform (Bookshop/PA)

She said: “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.”

The platform said bookshop owners have been positive about its UK launch, and it expects to have 200 retail partners by the end of the year.

Andy Rossiter of Rossiter Books in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, said: “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.”