The Online Bookshop
Let’s face it, online bookshops are the more convenient alternative for book buyers especially in the times of ‘physical distancing’ that we are currently living in. Amazon has already carved a massive niche for itself in the online book selling business – indeed when it comes to pretty much anything these days. Yet, this means that smaller businesses slow down or worse grind to a halt as they languish in the shadow of a large corporate giant. Think Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) versus Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail.
I have to admit that I sometimes have a gnawing sense of guilt when I succumb to the excuse of convenience that accompanies purchasing books from Amazon. While I am not disciplined enough to take an extreme measure as to vow off buying books on Amazon, one of things that I resolved to do in 2020 was to be a lot more intentional in my support of local bookstores. And because like most people, I cannot always find myself at a brick and mortar bookstore, I was really pleased to find out about Bookshop.org which is described by the folks at Poets & Writers as an indie alternative to Amazon. The business model appears to be quite favorable to the independent bookstores which are connected to Bookshop – they receive a 25 percent commission of a direct sale. I visited the platform, which was launched in January 2020, to check things out for myself. I was actually quite pleased with the results.
I was able to get four books from my reading list: Amnesty by Aravind Ariga, Writers & Lovers by Lily King, Last of Her Name by Mimi Lok and She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore. While it is quite certain that the same batch of books would have been cheaper had I purchased them on Amazon, I felt a lot better buying it on Bookshop.org. For one thing I am supporting my local bookstore that is connected to the site – which I shamefully have to admit I had never heard off but will be visiting when these days of self-isolation are over. To reinforce the fact that I am contributing to a good cause, at the bottom of the receipt for my purchases, the following words are written: “Thank you for your part in supporting local bookstores, a vital and essential part of our culture.”
There’s no denying that Amazon is here to stay, but we as consumers need to also make room at the table for the other players in the field. So yes, I will be going back to Bookshop.org and I hope more people do so to support their local bookstore.
And while I am the subject, now will be a good time to plug in two other online bookstores that I have patronized.
Contrary to popular belief, Amazon does not carry all book titles and I discovered this back in 2016 when I was looking for a couple of books recommended by a friend outside of the U.S. and I could not find them on Amazon or anywhere else locally. Another friend suggested that I try Wordery which I did and I was able to find what I was looking for. According to their website, the U.K. -based company offers more than 10 million books delivered free to over 100 countries. Book Depository is another site that I have visited online book purchases. They are also registered in the U.K. and offer free shipping worldwide.
The founders of Bookshop.org say that even if the site captures just 1 percent of the $3.1 billion in annual U.S. book sales that would represent $31 million which would be a boon for the struggling local bookstores and an enormous boost for the local book reading community.
Information for this post was taken from an article written by Gila Lyons published in the January/February 2020 edition of Poet & Writers: An Indie Alternative to Amazon?