Yesterday the publishing world was awash with news of the UK launch of uk.bookshop.org, a new book-selling platform geared towards helping independent bookshops in the online marketplace. It first launched in the US back in January and has since then partnered with over 900 indie bookshops and raised over $7.5m in funds to support them.
“Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.”In their own words.
This new platform – simply named Bookshop – provides an online space for physical bookshops, authors, and influencers to band together in order to funnel money towards independent booksellers. Money is earned in two ways: by commission, selling through virtual shopfronts or with affiliate links; and through payments from a central pool of profits which are shared out equally to bookstores. A bookstore can earn the full 30% from sales through their shopfront plus a share of that central pool, while Affiliates can earn a 10% commission on each sale they prompt.
Like many indie authors (not all, I hasten to add) I am a reluctant Amazon-user. I distribute my book through Amazon out of necessity – I would lose too many potential readers if I ignored it. (EVERYBODY uses Amazon, and the Kindle is one of the biggest ereaders out there.) So the arrival of a new indie book platform with the express intent of rivaling Amazon feels like a brilliant step forwards.
It sounds like a win-win-win.
However, there are a few less positive opinions of Bookshop.org bouncing around as well. One view is that the platform doesn’t actually help physical bookstores as much as it claims to. It’s still often slightly more profitable for a bookshop if you buy in-store or from their official website, rather than to buy through their Bookshop.org page. It’s also been suggested that all of the Affiliate pages might drown out the shopfronts of actual indie bookstores. While Bookshop.org is intentionally encouraging the bookloving community to jump in and create lists of books and drive traffic towards them, some indie booksellers feel this might be pulling traffic away from their own storefronts.
The upside of this, to my mind, is that every Affiliate sale also contributes to that central pool of funds which is shared among the indie bookstores. So Affiliates like authors and book reviewers – who often use Affiliate links to other book-selling sites anyway – can still earn a profit from their links while ALSO helping out indie bookshops.
Another advantage is that Bookshop.org takes care of fulfilment – they handle the physical work of packaging and shipping the books to customers. As the next lockdown looms large in the UK, this ability for bookshops to go completely (and hopefully only temporarily) virtual is a literal lifesaver to some businesses.
“It has been an utter lifeline. Sales flooded in as soon as we announced our temporary closure.”Bookshop.org helped this business survive through the initial onslaught of Covid-19
So far, it looks like the majority of opinion from the indie community is overwhelmingly positive. Frankly anything that encourages readers away from Amazon – and nudges them back in the direction of local independents – is an idea to be celebrated.
Below, you can see what my Affiliate Author page currently looks like. (Yes, this is an Affiliate Link.) I’ll use it to list my own books and a couple of relevant collections for those who like to know what I read. Anything you buy from my page will earn me a 10% commission, and it will be matched by another 10% which goes towards supporting indie bookshops. But for a much broader and less eclectic mix of titles, you should definitely use the map tool to find your closest indie bookshop and browse through their page as well.
If you’re an indie bookseller, feel free to drop your bookshop.org link in the comments along with an intro to your store. I’ll share the hell out of it where I can. Look out for more posts about indie bookshops coming soon!