Penguin Random House U.K. has launched a new reader recommendation platform allowing book-lovers to set up a virtual bookshop, share their favorite reads and discover, recommend and review books online.
My Independent Bookshop, which was devised and developed in partnership with independent digital agency Collective, is supported by Terry Pratchett and aims to create “a vibrant community of virtual shops and high streets with human recommendation and discovering new stories at its heart”.
The announcement follows Sunday’s Observer interview with PRH CEO Tom Weldon, his first since stepping up to the role last summer, in which he pondered where exactly 21st century readers went to discover books. He said he wanted the company to “get to know” and “establish a direct relationship with readers to tell them about the books they might fall in love with.” The challenge, Weldon said, isn’t digital but rather “how you tell people about the next great book.”
The free site launches April 7 in closed beta, kickstarting a month-long period where select authors and book fans will be invited to join the community and start creating their shops. Anyone interested can register to be among the first to set up their virtual bookshop when the initiative goes live to the general public.
Users can set up their shop with 12 books at a time on their shelves, changing the display as often as they choose, and they can also bring together their favorite shops from across the platform to create their own personal high street, with shop owners as diverse as their best-loved authors, closest friends, or local librarian, to help them find complementary and unexpected new reads.
Integration with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will enable readers to give friends, family and fans in their social networks a window into their shops. Through the website itself, readers can also share and request personal recommendations from among the community if they so choose. Anyone setting up an online bookshop will be eligible for rewards, including the chance to meet authors, personalize their bookshop and have access to early copies of new titles and sought-after tickets to Random House events book events specially for the My Independent Bookshop community.
All books in the virtual shops are available to buy online through hive.co.uk, the e-commerce arm of Gardners wholesalers, which is connected with hundreds of independent bookshops across the UK. As part of the registration process, My Independent Bookshop users can choose their favorite real-world independent bookshop to connect with. Hive will then pass a commission from any purchase made through the website to their chosen shop.
Hannah Telfer, Group Director, Consumer & Digital Development at Penguin Random House UK, explained: “People are becoming ever more sophisticated in the way they move between their social, digital and physical worlds. We want to harness the opportunities this creates to celebrate the power of human recommendation. By giving people the magical experience of curating their own bookshop and sharing this with their communities we are putting the discovery of great books and authors – no matter who they are published by – directly into the hands of book lovers."
“Through our conversations with readers on the Penguin Random House U.K. consumer panel, Bookmarks, we’ve already received some wonderful anecdotes from book lovers about how they will build their ideal bookshop. We hope to inspire ongoing conversations around books and deliver great stories to readers in a fun and very personal way.”
Outlining his support for the initiative, Terry Pratchett, said: “Independent bookshops supported this jobbing genre author long before the geeks were let out of their wardrobes, being able to support these talented retail wizards through My Independent Bookshop is a very, very good thing. The personal aspect of sharing recommendations in your own online shop gives readers the ability to discover surprising new worlds in an interesting way. Go on, have a virtual rummage around - you’ll never know what you might find.”
Julie Howkins, e-commerce manager at Gardners, added: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Penguin Random House U.K. This collaboration allows hive to be part of a fantastic initiative which will not only encourage people to share their passion for reading and books with like-minded people, but will also help support hundreds of independent bookshops across the U.K.”