Many of us enthusiastic readers are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic through the written word, but our favorite local booksellers are suffering from severe economic crisis. Though there has been some increase in sales in recent years, the shut down has made them turn more and more to online sales.
That's where Amazon comes in. Many indie bookstores don't have a robust online presence so Amazon sells for them, but they're forced to compete with other sellers for the lowest prices, meaning that they sell books at a barely sustainable profit.
The start-up Bookship.org intends to change this by offering independent booksellers a website they can use to sell that will offer them a way to compete with the Amazon giant.
“The idea came to me a long time ago — five years ago. I was thinking about all the challenges that independent local bookstores were having competing with Amazon. It occurred to me that they should not actually be handling their online orders, that there should be a platform where their orders could be shipped directly to customers from a wholesaler,” says Hunter. “That way, all the competitive disadvantages that they have could be taken care of.”
From the InsideHook article:
Here’s how Bookshop works: American Booksellers Association stores can sign up to sell books through the website, and 30% of the profits from those sales go directly to them (recently increased from 25% because of coronavirus fallout). That’s versus 40 to 45% if they do it themselves, according to Poets & Writers, but Bookshop handles the entire fulfillment process through the wholesaler Ingram. Additionally, stores can opt in to split an earnings pool that’s 10% of all non-bookstore affiliate sales, thus getting a second source of revenue.
Affiliate marketing, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals. In short, any time a book is written about on a website or blog or whatever, the writer usually links to the Amazon page for that book. If a reader clicks to Amazon and buys the book then Amazon will give the writer/blogger a tiny percentage of the sales. This can be huge if the writer reaches a large audience.
Right now, Amazon offers media companies a 4.5% affiliate kickback for selling paper books, while Bookshop offers 10%. It also has a fast-shipping program, discounts, and other incentives to draw customers. This has helped make the site take off.
“The New York Times has said that they’re coming on board. Slate just came on board, Vox came on board,” says Hunter. “We were having discussions but people’s feet weren’t to the fire. Now I think, first of all, they’re excited by our success and it makes us seem legit. Also, they understand the need to support stores right now, so they’re more inclined to do it. I think the third thing that’s going on is there’s some kind of social pressure. People are kind of shaming magazines that are linking to Amazon now and not linking to Bookshop, which is great for us.”
Andy Hunter is counting on “conscious consumerism” to help Bookshop take on the online retail giant Amazon. “The bookstore business is fantastic,” Oren Teicher, chief executive officer of the ABA says. Other industries “can be cutthroat. But in this business, everyone wants everyone else to succeed. The key is having booksellers who can really be a part of that community.”