Bookwitty.com, the global, online bookseller based in Paris, has stopped taking and fulfilling orders and is shutting down the site. An email sent on Tuesday to freelance writers who produced editorial content for the bookseller, advised contributors of the shutdown and encouraged them to copy their content.
"From the beginning, we knew that this mission would come with a lot of challenges, from technical to logistical, in order to ensure a level of service that meets the high standards of today’s online users," read the email. "However, we regret to inform you that, today, we are unable to continue with our mission as we are unable to maintain the expected quality of service. Hence, we are forced to close Bookwitty.com."
The online site was launched in 2015 and was the consumer brand of Bookwitty, a company that had been previously selling books through third-party booksellers on Amazon since the mid-2000s. Bookwitty is itself a partnership between Levant Distributors, a book distribution company founded in 1950, and Keeward, a technology company, both based in Beirut.
In an interview last year with PW, Cyril Hadji-Thomas, Bookwitty’s cofounder and CEO, said that the company had intended to take on Amazon as a global bookseller and claimed to have sold some 10 million print books over the past five years. At the time of the conversation, Bookwitty was offering about 27 million print titles in English, French, German, and Spanish—all with free worldwide shipping — and had recently launched a French-language web site Bookwitty.fr, which is also closing.
Hadji-Thomas had said the firm hoped to expand operations and was looking to raise $10 million in additional financing, a goal which he failed to achieve.
The company's practice of offering discounted titles and free shipping as an Amazon marketplace reseller has put it in conflict with other booksellers and some publishers. Under Amazon.com's program that allows resellers to "win the buy button," Bookwitty's low prices and free shipping sometimes resulted in Bookwitty being listed as the preferred seller for select titles, despite the fact that the books were shipped by sea from a warehouse in Lebanon, would take weeks to arrive, and sometimes were editions that violated territorial copyright.
It is unclear whether or not the Bookwitty closure will affect Keeward's affiliated businesses. Representatives from the company had not responded to queries by time of publication.