Booksellers Sound Off About Bookshop.org
“Bookshop has been a lifeline for our shop, and it came at a perfect time. I'm not sure we would still be here otherwise.” — Cary Loren, The Book Beat
“Without Bookshop I don’t think we would make it to the other side of this pandemic.” — Rebecca Dowling, The Hockessin BookShelf
“Please know how grateful I am for your vision for this tool and just how crucial it has become for struggling bookstores like mine. With my Bookshop payout, I'll be able to keep our lease. Because of Bookshop, I have hope.” — Lexi Walters Wright, High Five Books
“Bookshop is a driving force in making the indie world a better place.” — Gee Gee Rosell, Buxton Village Books
“I love how you are always receptive to feedback and striving to enhance and improve. Bookshop could not have come at a more fortunate time for a business like mine.” —Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books
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Bookshop.org Offers a Lifeline to Indie Bookstores
Editor's Note: We updated this article in January 2020 to share the good news about Bookshop's 2nd Anniversary report.
The challenges of the pandemic have showed us how important, and sometimes how difficult it is to support independent local bookstores. There’s good support: Participate in online events! Engage with bookstores on social media! And there’s great support: Shop local! Order online from independent bookstores instead of Amazon! And then, there’s the folks at Bookshop.org, a bookselling website that has re-defined the norms of online book shopping. As of its 2nd anniversary, on January 28, 2022, Bookshop.org has earned more than 21 million dollars in support of independent bookshops since its launch. How did an independent organization raise so much in just two years? We talked with Sarah High, the Partnerships Manager for Bookshop.org, to find out more about this groundbreaking site.
Bookshop.org was launched in January of 2020, but the journey to the current version of the site began several years earlier. Sarah explained: “Bookshop began as an idea in the early 2010s to better help booksellers have a free, easy, and hassle-less way of selling books online. Our founder and CEO, Andy Hunter, envisioned Bookshop as a unified ecommerce platform, consisting of booksellers, authors, publishers, and book lovers alike, to explicitly support independent bookstores with every sale by competing with Amazon and their dominance on the book market.” This is a timely goal – Amazon currently has a near monopoly on online bookselling, and Bookshop gives smaller indie booksellers a way to fight back at a time when many businesses aren’t able to accept customers in-person. Why is this important? Bookshop’s mission statement says it best:
“We believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our downtowns and communities.”
Facing the behemoth of Amazon’s extensive bookselling services, an organization like Bookshop may seem to have a hopeless battle ahead. However, the company’s growth proves otherwise. Bookshop launched on January 28th of 2020 with a total of 93 bookstores on the platform, and as of now they have 1,323 bookstores in the profit-share pool, and a total of 50,023 affiliates on the site. Over $21 have been distributed to indie bookstores worldwide with $18.7 million going to U.S. bookstores. The stores earned $12.7 million in direct commissions. A complete 2nd Anniversary Impact Statement can be viewed HERE.
How does this profit-sharing work? Bookshop.org provides several options for the online book shopper. The “Find a Bookstore” feature allows customers to select an independent bookstore to process their order and receive the full profit off their purchase. With 1,300 bookstores currently using the platform and a helpful map feature that automatically matches shoppers with the closest participating bookstore, Bookshop makes it easy to choose an independent store for your order.
But that’s not the only option for online shoppers! If you don’t wish to select a single store, your Bookshop order will still contribute to an earnings pool that is distributed equally among several indie bookstores. Bookshop also has an affiliate program that supports anyone who advocates for books. In addition to paying a 10% commission on every sale, the affiliate program gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores. Anyone who promotes books can sign up to be an affiliate, but the program is especially helpful to independent authors and book clubs. (Be sure to check out the Independent Publisher affiliate bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/shop/independentpublisher)
It’s also possible to purchase eBooks and audiobooks through Bookshop.org. Bookshop sells eBooks through Hummingbird and audiobooks through Libro.fm, and the proceeds for these online orders still help support independent bookstores and authors.
This support for independent bookstores has been especially important during the pandemic. Sarah reported a sales jump on Bookshop.org due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an increase in the number of bookstores and affiliates who have joined Bookshop since the pandemic began. Bookshop.org was also utilized as a tool for social change in 2020, with another sales jump in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, that year Sarah reported that “six of our ten best-performing stores on Bookshop.org are Black-owned bookstores! Some of these stores include the Black-woman owned bookstores Semicolon Books in Chicago and The Lit. Bar in the Bronx, NY.”
Bookshop has grown so much in just one year, but it has bigger plans for the future. When asked about the organization’s future goals, Sarah responded: “We just expanded to the UK last month, and plan on expanding to Spain and other countries in the future to help indie bookstores across the globe. We definitely plan on always adding new and better features that booksellers and all affiliates can benefit from. For example, we plan on integrating coupon codes for affiliates to use in the very near future, and even (eventually) a way for book lovers (booksellers, bloggers, authors, and bibliophiles alike) to add book reviews to Bookshop.org. Stay tuned for more!”
We will definitely be staying tuned, and, in the meantime, we’ll be shopping online at Bookshop.org.
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Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. "We are a benefit corporation, a company dedicated to the common good, and we believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. Every book you purchase on from us financially supports local, independent bookstores at a time when they need it most." Follow Bookshop.org on INSTAGRAM.
Cece Richardson is a contributing writer for Independent Publisher. She studies English and Theatre at Benedictine College, where she spends her time acting, writing, and producing radio shows. You can find her on twitter @CeceRichardson6.