Best Little Bookshop launches in beta

International online boutique bookseller Best Little Bookshop has launched in beta form, with the intention of offering “millions” of titles.  

The retailer, founded by former Book Depository m.d Kieron Smith, will sell books to 100 countries, in 19 currencies with the website available in five languages.

Smith, who left the Amazon-owned Book Depository last November, said that Best Little Bookshop aimed to recreate the magic and pleasure of the physical bookshop experience online, particularly when it came to browsing, an aspect online retailers have previously struggled to do well. Smith said it was set with the belief that it could “add a human touch to book buying that is sorely missing online”, which it will do by offering interesting and personal recommendations from the Best Little Bookshop team, “rather than being driven by algorithms to create book lists”.

As part of this, along with the usual browsing sections of ‘bestsellers’, ‘new books’ and ‘gift ideas’, the website offers readers book recommendations under “small press and handmade” books and a larger section inviting readers to “discover” more unusual backlist titles, such as Insults and Comebacks: Lines for All Occasions by Knock Knock Books, published in 2008 and The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson by Unicorn Press.

In a few weeks’ time, booksellers and publishers from around the world will also be able to sell titles direct to consumers through the website, which Smith hopes will greatly add to the diversity and range of books consumers can discover.

Books will be sold between full price and 37% discount. The price customers are given is inclusive of postage and packaging. “We will sell books form all over the world, and we are hoping to put books in front of people they have never seen before,” Smith said. “We are price competitive but we don’t want to drive the value out of the product at the same time – we don’t want to encourage a race to the bottom.”

Smith said: “We believe there is room for a different sort of bookshop online and hope that with our first tentative step in this direction, people will see how we can add value through our bookselling expertise, showcase interesting titles and delight customers with our offer.” He added: “Twenty weeks have flown by since I announced our vision at the end of February, and after blood, sweat and tears, Best Little Bookshop is now live. As it is a beta site, there is some functionality you’ll see, some you won’t. We will be continuing to test and add new things over the next few weeks.”

Each book page will also give readers the opportunity to discuss the title, search with more granular bibliographic filtering. The book pages will feature large, tablet friendly images. “We are also using responsive design so customers get a good experience across screen sizes and mobile,” Smith said.

Smith said publishers had been supportive of the project and both publishers and other booksellers had expressed interest in selling directly through the website. The commission a bookseller or publisher would have to pay on a sale is 13%, with no hidden fees. Books will be shipped by Best Little Bookshop and a supplier.

Over the next few weeks before its official launch, Best Little Bookshop will work on the interface for third party booksellers to list their stock on the site, and “dramatically increase” the range of books on offer.

Best Little Bookshop hired Martin Hearn as chief technology officer last month.