Last week, a new online book retailer model launched the beta version of its innovative site.Indeed, Bookshop.org has gone live with the mission to “financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.” Founded by the publisher and entrepreneur Andy Hunter, Bookshop! sees itself as a company putting the public good—and the health of the ailing book business—above profit.
It will operate by taking orders from book buyers, processing them, then distributing a percentage of the profit among a pool of indie bricks and mortar bookstores twice a year, as well as directing another small percentage of the profit to Bookshop.org .
Basically, it’s a central online hub that hopes to become the indie alternative to Amazon.
So, how does this work:
How does Bookshop work with independent bookstores?
- Bookshop will support indies in two ways: 10% of sales on Bookshop.org support participating independent bookstores in an overall earnings pool that is evenly divided and distributed to stores every six months.
- Stores that are affiliates, who sell books online using Bookshop (by sharing links their Bookshop link on social media, email newsletters, or on their websites) will earn 25% commission directly on any sales they generate, without having to do the work of keeping inventory, picking, packing, shipping or handling complaints and returns.
- All orders are fulfilled through Ingram.
How does Bookshop promote local bookstores?
- Every receipt we email customers will inform them about the bookstores near them, and include event listings for those stores.
- If a Bookshop customer opts in, their local bookstore will be given their email address for direct marketing.
- Affiliate stores can create recommendation lists (staff picks, etc) on Bookshop, boosting their visibility and earning the 25% affiliate commission on every sale generated from the list.
- Affiliates do not have to handle inventory, fulfillment, shipping, or customer service. All book sales are fulfilled by Ingram. Ingram’s extensive inventory and regional warehouse system ensures Bookshop that books can reach customers in as soon as 2-3 days.
With this model, one of the site’s main goals will be to reach the type of consumer whose instinct is to order a book through Amazon, and convince them that their money could instead be spent in a way that sustains the book industry.
Another, and perhaps even more impactful goal, will be enticing affiliates—major book review outlets, bloggers, and authors, for instance—to link to Bookshop.org instead of Amazon in their reviews. Here, Bookshop.org actually can outcompete Amazon, by offering a better cut of the sale to the affiliate that hosted the link. The result would be a some key players fostering a culture where Amazon is not synonymous with online book retail.
Full disclosure: I am a Bookshop.org affiliate.