I’ve always have a thing about bookshops, particularly independent bookshops – as a child one of my biggest ambitions was one day to have my own bookshop. I used to love the local bookshop in my own hometown, the Corner Bookshop in Garstang, and before that, Gladstone’s Bookshop in Cleveleys. Sadly, they are both no more, and neither of the towns of my childhood have their own bookshop anymore as far as I’m aware. In the days of the internet, and especially Amazon, it is extremely difficult to make a living with a bookshop, which is why so many have closed down.
There’s now however, some hope, in the form of a new online bookshop, Bookshop.org, which launched today and brings together and supports hundreds of local independent bookshops. You can browse or search for books from the homepage, much as you would on any other online site, but the really exciting bit is that each bookshop has its own homepage on the site. You can read a description of the bookshop, and also browse through their own curated lists of books. One of my favourite local bookshops is Bookends in Carlisle, Cumbria. They’ve selected a ‘Cumbrian Crime’ list, ‘Cumbrian Highlights 2020’ and other lists like ‘Four Legged Friends’ and ‘Classics Rewritten’. If you order from their section of the website, they’ll get 30% of the proceeds, i.e. the full profit margin that a bookshop would normally get. It’s not quite the same as visiting the shop in person (it is a fantastic bookshop, if you ever get the chance to visit, do), but it is a great online alternative – especially at a time when here in England at least we’re about to enter a 4 week lockdown when you can’t visit any bookshops in person anyway! It’s not just your own local bookshop you can visit and support too, you can visit anywhere – fancy looking at what Shetland Times Bookshop has to recommend, or perhaps the Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance? Well now you can. I find this particularly exciting, and am planning to share a few local bookstores online offering on Twitter over the next few weeks.
Bookshop.org are also encouraging bloggers, vloggers and people on social media to affiliate with them. As well as providing a percentage for affiliates, 10% of income from these sales which will go into a pot and be shared out amongst member bookstores. I’ve so far resisted putting any form of advertising or affiliate book links on this site, but I like what they’re down so think I’m going to sign up – expect some links on new book posts in future.
If you are like me, you may be hesitant about buying from a new venture like this -are they any good, are they safe, secure etc? Well the good news is your order will be fulfilled by Gardners – you might not have heard of them, but they’ve Britain’s biggest book wholesaler, and have been supplying books to bookshops all around the country (and further afield) for more than thirty years.
I think it is really exciting to have a good alternative for your book buying that supports local businesses up and down the country. It’s a great, socially conscious business model I’m excited to support. I just need to work out what to buy first!