Fighting the Rainforest: Amazon alternative launches in the UK

December 4, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Bookshop.org (Bookshop), a new bookseller seeking to support independent bookstores and fight back against Amazon, has launched in the UK.

What does this mean?

Bookstores have seen massive drops in sales consistently year on year, whilst Amazon’s market share has grown to over 50% in the US. The ease of use, speed and vast array of book titles offered by Amazon has allowed them to grow rapidly. However, many oppose Amazon’s business practices, the way they treat their employees, and the negative impact they have on independent bookstores. Therefore, initiatives such as Bookshop.org seek to create a viable alternative to Amazon that delivers the same level of customer satisfaction without sacrificing independent bookstores.

What's the big picture effect?

Amazon, Jeff Bezos’s garage project, began due to Bezos recognising the upcoming boom in e-commerce. Whilst Bezos and Amazon did begin selling just books and was founded on the claim that Amazon would be ‘the biggest bookstore in the world’, ultimately books were just a product for Bezos. In fact, he compiled a list of several different products, and whilst he landed on books, he had no special connection to them aside from thinking they had the highest potential for success. Andy Hunter, Bookshop’s owner’s story is very different. He is seeking to disrupt the book market due to a genuine passion for both books and independent stores. To do this, Bookshop allows indie booksellers to create e-stores on their platform. These stores are then given the full 30% profit margin on each sale, with 50% going to the publisher. The remaining 20% is used by Bookshop to cover its fulfilment costs. In the US Bookshop has partnered with the wholesaler Gardeners to allow for same-day delivery, thus keeping it competitive with Amazon’s vast ‘Prime’ delivery arm.

As mentioned, Bookshop began in the US, where it reached rapid success growing from 250 to 900 e-stores being created by indie booksellers in its first six weeks. However, in its first two weeks of being launched in the UK, Bookshop has pulled in roughly £100,000 in revenue. This launch, purposefully brought ahead to coincide with a spike in book-buying during the Covid-19 lockdown, has therefore gone well and shows that the socially conscious consumer market is as present in the UK as it is in the US.

In the context of the fall of the high-street store, as well as bookstores classification as non-essential businesses, initiatives like Bookshop are key in ensuring that independent bookstores survive. Moreover, the relative success of Bookshop asks the wider question, will businesses such as Amazon who sacrifice employee wellbeing, climate security and socially conscious business practices survive the changing market?

Report written by Hari Majumdar

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