Bookstore goes online
Jackson Hole Book Trader has joined a new online book-selling effort through which small independent bookstores around the country try to compete with e-commerce giant Amazon.
Bookshop.org features pages from member bookstores that show a selection of books recommended by that particular seller. Customers can buy those books or any other offered via Ingram, one of the country’s major book wholesalers.
Books are discounted online, and participating stores get a direct payment for each book sold via Bookshop.org; the site also contributes to a fund that pays more cash to bookstores that need help.
“If you go to our site and buy something listed we get 25% of that, and it goes to an account we can use forever,” said Susie Temple, owner of Book Trader and also of Wilson Book Gallery. “Ten percent goes to a pool and is distributed to book stores twice a year.”
Bookshop was saying last week that since its recent start it had contributed more than $4,100 to independent booksellers.
Surviving in the face of Amazon’s growing stranglehold on book sales was what prompted Bookshop, Temple said. She said that in 2016 Amazon had 30% of the book market but that by 2019 its share had risen to 51%.
That’s all coming out of sales of bookstores, she said, and while attempts by some stores to set up their own online outlets have helped, they’ve been unable to stand up to Amazon.
“Amazon is going to take all the business if we don’t do something,” Temple said.”People love bookstores, but they’ll visit one and that night they’ll go home and buy a book on Amazon. ... There’s no reason for that with Bookshop.”
Buyers do pay shipping, and Temple said there’s no two-day delivery guarantee as with Amazon Prime. But she said she tested the Bookshop system and had her standard-shipped order, guaranteed in four to seven days, arrive in three. Local bookstores aren’t involved in filling orders; online orders are fulfilled by Ingram.
Besides pages for member bookstores, the site also offers book recommendations by Bookshop.org arranged by subject. Recent categories included Indie Best Sellers; Hardcover Fiction; PEN America 2019 Winners, Black History Month; Valentines Day Recommendations and Best Breakup Books; Pulitzer Prize Winners: Fiction 1949-2019; Appalachia As Depicted by Appalachians; Warren Buffet’s Favorite Books; and David Bowie’s Favorite Books.
Temple said that despite a recent resurgence in small booksellers, they still face a life-or-death situation when faced by Amazon competition, and need customer loyalty to make it.
“In an ideal world no one would buy their books from Amazon,” she said.
— Mark Huffman