So, the global pandemic has changed everything, we can all agree on that. Book buyers are changing how they get their fixes, and Bookshop has been a big part of that, giving indie-shoppers a non-Amazon option to get their books in one place. But is buying from Bookshop leading to a better world? Some are criticizing the site’s margins, etc. What are your thoughts on this? Still better than Amazon, obviously, but better than buying direct from your favourite store? Probably not.
Despite its success, the site has critics. Brad Johnson, owner of East Bay Booksellers in Oakland, Calif., which maintains a Bookshop page, pointed out that though the site is helpful, it is not a replacement for direct sales, as the profit margin on Bookshop sales is significantly lower. In particular, Johnson said, the site doesn’t provide any direct engagement with customers—or individual customer data. “There seems to be a belief among many people that buying a book from Bookshop is the same as buying it directly from the bookstore,” he added.
Johnson also objects to the way Bookshop is marketing itself to indie booksellers. “While, I see [Bookshop] as a tool that can conceivably be used, they’re making it much more difficult to do that because of their narrative of saving bookstores. They’re not.”
Hunter sees things differently. “I only use the word supporting,” he said. “We’re not claiming to be saving anyone. I do think that selling books online is going to be important to the survival of stores in the future, and we want to help stores make the transition.”
Hunter noted that this is a time of crisis and that there are several large bookstores that may not continue to use Bookshop when they reopen. “They’re using Bookshop as a stopgap until they go back to their stores,” he said. “And we’re happy to have them for now.”
But Hunter believes the platform is providing a long-term revenue stream for smaller stores. “These stores are using Bookshop as their sole means of commerce,” he explained. “They don’t have a lot of resources or inventory to satisfy their customers. They just want a turnkey solution, and to earn money every day without doing much work.”