My Independent Bookshop launches to consumers

My Independent Bookshop launches to consumers

Over 70 bookshops have signed up to create profiles on Penguin Random House’s consumer book recommendation site My Independent Bookshop.

The publisher said the figure was “really healthy” for the few weeks since it launched in beta form to the trade at London Book Fair in early April.

My Independent Bookshop’s platform officially launches to consumers today (7th May), unveiling 400 bookshop profiles in total from authors such as Irvine Welsh, Dorothy Koomson, John Boyne, Samantha Hayes, SJ Bolton, Tony Parsons, Alastair Campbell and BBC 2 radio presenter Simon Mayo, among hundreds more.

The concept sees readers, authors and booksellers setting up their own ‘bookshop profiles’ on the website recomming 12 books at a time on their shelves through Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

All books in the virtual shops can be bought through hive.co.uk, the e-commerce arm of Gardners wholesalers, which is connected to around 350 bookshops in the UK. As part of the registration process, My Independent Bookshop users can choose their favourite real-world independent bookshop to connect with through Hive, benefitting from a 5% commission on book orders and 8% on e-books orders from purchases made through their website.

Author Terry Pratchett has chosen to link his bookshop profile called Narrativia to the Hayling Island bookshop in Havant.

Marie Telford, owner of The Hayling Island Bookshop, said: “We were absolutely astonished, delighted and honoured to hear that Terry had chosen our tiny bookshop to be linked to his online bookshop Narrativia. We are so pleased that he is helping independent bookshops to extend their reach in this way. This new site is a great way for people to share their favourite books online and we also hope that many of them will come and visit us in person too.”

Sheila O’Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books in South London, said she hoped the online profile would help the shop to extend its reach and build a new community beyond London. The bookshop is helping to promote it through postcards and bookmarks in store.

Bookseller Association president Tim Walker was also supportive of the platform, despite accepting that it may encourage more customers to shop online rather than in physical stores. He said: “Part of you thinks you shouldn’t encourage your customers to buy books online because we are robbing sales from ourselves. But the counter argument would be that actually customers are shopping online anyway and they also buy from supermarkets, Waterstones, WH Smith, etc. If customers want to buy online and we are not online then they will buy from someone else, so we may as well be in the game and this is giving us an opportunity to have an online presence.” He added a bonus was that, while bookshops only receive a small commission in sales made through Hive, they also don’t have to pay for the stock or store it.

Julie Howkins, e-commerce manager at Hive, said it was “wonderful” so many of the Hive network bookshops have created virtual shops “showcasing their most treasured reads to an entirely new audience.”

Hannah Telfer, group director for consumer and digital development at Penguin Random House UK, said people were becoming more sophisticated in the way they move between their social, digital and physical worlds. “We want to harness the opportunities this creates to celebrate the power of personal recommendation,” She said. “By giving people the magical experience of curating their own bookshop and sharing this with their communities we are putting the discovery of great books and authors – no matter who they are published by – directly into the hands of book lovers.”