Booksellers Join Bookshop to Drive Online Sales Amidst COVID-19

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Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, booksellers are pivoting to different e-commerce options like to fulfill orders while doors are closed. 

Bookshop is a new online bookselling platform designed to support independent bookstores. Booksellers can join Bookshop as partners, which automatically receive 10 percent of the profit distribution pool from revenue generated by Bookshop, or as affiliates, where stores can have their own affiliate page on Bookshop and earn a 25 percent commission. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Bookshop has temporarily increased the affiliate commission to 30 percent.

June Wilcox of Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers in Auburn, Alabama, told Bookselling This Week that while her store is still open for curbside pickup, she’s driving a lot of business over to Bookshop. The store had looked at building its own e-commerce website, but in January, after talking with representatives from Bookshop at Winter Institute, Wilcox knew it was the right choice. 

“We were really excited about it, and then when this happened, we were even more excited,” Wilcox said. “Bookshop is still in beta, and we were intending on holding off launching our site until e-book and audiobooks were integrated, but given the current climate, we decided to go all in.” 

So far, she said, business has been great. “What we’ve done is drive anyone who wants to order in that direction, and we’ve gone from zero to really impressive participation in a week. We’re grateful that they’re here. We think what they’re doing is really smart in the best of environments, and it’s proving to be a life saver for a lot of us during really difficult times.”

Karen Piacentini of Fenton’s Open Book in Fenton, Michigan, said she’s also been directing her customers to Bookshop. While she hasn’t gathered exact data on how many customers have placed orders, she noted that people are telling her they have. “One customer said she saw Ann Patchett [on PBS NewsHour] and wanted to support us,” she said.

Piacentini told BTW she signed up with Bookshop because of its interface, which is simple for both customers and staff to use, noting “I do like Bookshop for what it’s doing and what it’s putting out there.” Her store relies on tourism and foot traffic, she said, so she needs to find a way to reach customers from out of town that might not follow her store on social media. 

At Highland Books in Brevard, North Carolina, Amanda Mosser said the store has an IndieCommerce site in addition to using Bookshop. “I signed up for Bookshop when it started, before the pandemic really got going in the U.S.,” she noted. “I thought it was a great response to Amazon and a way to reach more online customers than by just using our website alone. In this business, any little bit helps.” 

Online sales have been slowly growing for her store, Mosser added, mostly through orders from younger people or friends within the store’s community. Most of the store’s regular customers are in the older demographic, Mosser said, adding, “I get daily calls from regulars for how to navigate ordering online.” 

While e-commerce is not a replacement for in-person sales, Mosser noted that right now, “Bookshop and IndieCommerce sales are helping. We hope it is enough to keep going through this pandemic.” 

Booksellers can read the FAQ for Bookstores on Bookshop’s website to learn more.