Bookshop.org picks up steam during the pandemic

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Late last year, Bookshop.org launched as an online bookstore that supports independent bookstores. (Bookshop has ties to the American Booksellers Association’s IndieBound.) While initial attention for Bookshop was slow, the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing nationwide shutdowns has given the online bookstore increased attention.

About Bookshop

Vancouver public library book shelves
Photo by GoToVan (Flickr / CC BY)

Below is the basic premise and aspects of Bookshop:

  • Bookstores can sign up with Bookshop as an affiliate and create their own page on the site, complete with lists of books to recommend (favorites, staff picks, etc.). Any book purchases made through the site earn the affiliate a 30% commission. (The site’s About page says 25%, but it was recently increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.) The other 70% goes to Bookshop’s operating costs, including fees, fulfillment, and paying publishers.
  • Another option is for bookstores to participate in an earning pool for non-bookstore affiliate sales. 10% of all such sales go into the earning pool, distributed evenly to bookstores every six months.
  • Non-bookstore affiliates can earn a 10% commission on sales. Since anyone can set up on Bookshop as an affiliate, bloggers, book-focused websites, etc. can have their own presence, and offer affiliate links.
  • Affiliates don’t have to handle fulfilling orders, shipping, returns, etc.; Bookshop handles such, via working with large book wholesaler Ingram.
  • Besides paper books, some ebooks are also offered (via a third-party app). Graphic novels and trade paperbacks are also carried.

Pros and cons of Bookshop

Pros

iPad
Photo by geralt (Pixabay / CC0)

Since it’s basically a mainstream book seller channel, Bookshop can handle graphic novel and trade paperback sales like any other book. As such, with many comic shops closed due to the pandemic (as of this writing), this offers one way for local comic shops to earn some business. While it’s not the same level of revenue as the shop making direct sales on their own, Bookshop still could offer some income.

There’s also the strong encouragement and ties to indie bookstores, a good thing given Amazon’s overwhelming dominance.

The 10% affiliate commission is also attractive versus Amazon, who offers 4.5% for physical books.

Cons

On the down sides, Bookshop is still a very new service, so there’s no telling what its long-term future will be like.  There’s the possibility of its terms/commission shares changing in the future. That said, Bookshop has ties to IndieBound, who’s been around since 2008.

Bookshop books aren’t discounted as deeply as those on Amazon.

The online bookstore also doesn’t have as strong ebook or audiobook offerings compared to Amazon, especially for digital comics. (Though again, the Amazon-owned Comixology dominates there to a big degree.)

Finally, Bookshop currently only services the United States, though their site notes they hope to expand to Canada sometime soon.

Conclusion

Overall, Bookshop sounds like a possibly promising alternative to Amazon, for those wishing to support independent local bookstores and comic shops. It also might be a decent alternative to Amazon for bloggers interested in affiliate links.

Again, hopefully Bookshop works out in the long run. The site’s founder notes he’s received requests to create an alternative to Goodreads, the Amazon-owned book review site.


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