The indie book platform trying to take on Amazon

Published 4th November 2020
Credit: Courtesy Book Culture
The indie book platform trying to take on Amazon
Written by Tufayel Ahmed, CNN
New bookselling platform Bookshop is pitching itself as a way for independent bookstores to claw back sales from Amazon, which controls a lion's share of a market worth nearly $26 billion in the US alone.
Bookshop, launched by literary publisher Andy Hunter in January, claims to be a "socially conscious" alternative to Amazon. A spokesperson for the enterprise also said it has already earned more than $7.5 million for US indie bookshops and taken 2 percent of Amazon's share of the market in its first year.
The platform allows booksellers to create their own digital stores and receive the full profit margin (30 percent) from each sale through their page. 10 percent of sales through Bookshop also go towards a fund that is divided between indie bookshops whether or not they are part of the platform.
Chris Doeblin, the owner of three Book Culture locations in New York, said he saw his sales plummet by half as Amazon grew in popularity in the late 1990s. "We've barely held on. It's been horrible," Doeblin said in a telephone interview. "Independent bookshops do wonderful things for a community -- they populate the storefronts, they offer a place to go."
Doeblin said the civic value of local stores has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced shops to close and emptied the streets. "People understand that more and value supporting us. They recognize the problem with having this incredible aggregation of sales through Amazon," the bookseller said.
The advent of Bookshop, then, offers small businesses a firmer foothold in virtual sales, helping them, in theory, stay afloat and compete with more established players. "We went from 1 to 5 percent of sales online to briefly it was 100 percent (at the height of the pandemic), and now it might be 20 percent online," said Doeblin of the upswing in online sales in 2020.
Bookshop's success in the US prompted the company to expedite its UK spinoff, which launched on Monday with 150 bookshops signed up ahead of the busy holiday shopping period.
"I think a lot of people are now seeing that every penny spent on Amazon just goes to Bezos," said Vivian Archer, manager of Newham Bookshop in east London. "They'll see this as an alternative that they approve of -- certainly our customers have already said how important that is."