Indie-focused retailer Bookshop.org has generated £2m to date for its 500 affiliated bookshops, with titles by Douglas Stuart, Caleb Femi and chef duo Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage among the biggest sellers.
The book buying platform, which was launched in the UK in November 2020 as an alternative to Amazon, has split the money with 55% of the total being distributed to bookshops in customer-designated commissions and 45% being shared equally among all participating bookshops as part of a shared profit pool, irrespective of their level of activity on the site.
Between Black Friday and the end of the year, the book sales on the platform amounted to £1m, with more than 2,500 orders using its newly-launched gift wrapping service, and almost 1,000 gift cards sold in just over a month.
A significant portion of the shared pool is generated by the website’s affiliate programme, which encourages anyone in the book world, including publishers, authors, book bloggers, media and readers to sell books through Bookshop.org, receiving 10% commission and a matching 10% contribution to the profit pool. This allows anyone sharing books online to support indie bookshops.
Hugh Davies from Paper-works Books & Prints in Lowestoft said the Bookshop.org commissions were "fundamental to supporting my tiny community bookshop", while Karen Walker from The Blue House Bookshop in York called the platform "a life-saver while we endured lockdown as a new entrant into the industry".
Angela Makey from Niche Comics Bookshop in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, added: "The commission earned from Bookshop.org has provided welcome additional financial support during the pandemic. In addition, we have been able to use the money to add more display shelves at Niche Comics, and also run open mic poetry events in the shop.”
Among the books that have generated the most money for independent bookshops last year as part if its Indie Champions chart were Booker Prize-winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Picador), The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press), Poor by Caleb Femi (Penguin), A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Viking) and Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press), among others.
Stuart said: "I am thrilled to see Shuggie Bain among the Indie Champions for 2021. Over the last year, Bookshop.org has done so much to support indie bookshops, and it is these local bookshops that keep people reading in our communities and jobs on our high streets. I am glad to be able to support them in any way I can."
Booksellers are looking ahead to exciting titles that are coming up in 2022, and have started to put together their book recommendations in a series of lists hosted on the digital platform.
So far, the indies’ highlights for 2022 include the debut novel Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (Micheal Joseph), mystery novel The Maid by Nita Prose (HarperCollins), children’s debut Jummy at the River School by Sabine Adeyinka (Chicken House), the second novel by Stuart, Young Mungo (Picador), The Celts by Simon Jenkins (Profile Books) and The Love Songs of W E B Du Bois by American poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Fourth Estate).
Nicole Vanderbilt, m.d. of Bookshop.org UK, said: “We believe readers should go into an indie bookshop whenever they can – there is simply nothing else like it, but when they can't, there is a better way to buy books online. By choosing Bookshop.org for their holiday book shopping, readers have generated over £2 million in incremental profit for these amazing independent bookshops. This is a testament to the fact that there’s a place for ethical shopping in online book-buying. We are looking forward to supporting independent booksellers throughout 2022 and to help them get great titles in the hands of their customers."
“This £2m milestone is a remarkable achievement by Bookshop.org and the booksellers who use the platform," said Meryl Halls, m.d. of the Booksellers Association. "Bookshop.org has proven itself a true friend to independent booksellers over its first year, and is a genuine alternative to Amazon for those book-buyers who want to support indie bookshops online, often from a distance and often in pursuit of a more ethical shopping decision."
"We know the positive impacts of the income generated by Bookshop.org for some of our smaller booksellers, and it’s been a welcome lifeline for many, used in conjunction, often, with the bookshop’s own e-commerce offer. We congratulate the team at Bookshop.org on this significant achievement.”
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