At Winter Institute 2018 in Memphis, Andy Hunter, cofounder of the digital magazines Electric Literature and Literary Hub and the publishing house Catapult, was asked for advice on how to improve the American Bookseller Association’s e-commerce site, IndieBound. He moved quickly to create an alternative, Bookshop, where consumers can purchase books with a single click. When it launches, Bookshop will replace IndieBound’s e-commerce function. Hunter has also raised funds, met with publishers and media that cover books about selling online through Bookshop, and forged partnerships, including one with Ingram, which will handle book inventory and fulfillment. Soon after launch, Bookshop will add e-books through Hummingbird Digital Media. At press time, an audio partner had not been selected.
Hunter is eager to prove that there’s room for an indie e-commerce site and that Bookshop, which is set up as a B Corporation (one that balances purpose and profit) to generate meaningful revenue for both indies and for book media, can positively affect bookstores’ bottom line. Twice a year, 10% of Bookshop’s sales revenue will be divided among ABA member stores that have signed up to become affiliates. They can earn an additional 25% of the list price on books whose sales they drive. Hunter anticipates that Bookshop will have 35 bookstore affiliates at launch, although more are encouraged to sign on at bookshop.org or at Winter Institute, where Bookshop will have a consultation station.
“We think time matters,” says Hunter, who has been on a mission to get Bookshop up and running in 24 months. Raising money for indies is not just a driving force behind Bookshop but a key component of the platform: a counter on the site’s homepage shows how much money has been raised for indies to date, and the ordering page shows how much an individual customer’s shopping cart will contribute to indies.
This year Bookshop needs to earn $5 million to break even. Within three years, Hunter thinks it’s feasible to earn $30 million, which would enable Bookshop to give back up to $8 million to bookstores. “That would really make a difference,” he says.
Hunter is particularly concerned that Bookshop reflect what booksellers want for the site. He encourages booksellers to volunteer for a space on its board and also emphasizes Bookshop’s commitment to making changes based on indie input. When booksellers objected to Bookshop using reviews from Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon, it took Goodreads off the beta site. And when publishers asked Bookshop to run signed preorder campaigns, it said no to avoid competing with the efforts of local bookstores.
Through Bookshop’s affiliate program, book bloggers, media groups, and other book influencers can sign up to become affiliates and earn 10% of the list price of book sales that they drive. Even though many indies prefer not to discount in-store, books will be discounted 10% on Bookshop.
As for IndieBound, it will continue to provide information to consumers and booksellers, with purchasing links to Bookshop. And ABA will continue to provide sites for indies via IndieLite.
Andy Hunter will speak at the Independent Publishers Caucus on Tuesday, January 21, 3:15–3:35 p.m., Tubman, floor 3, Hilton.
Hunter will give a presentation titled “How Bookshop Benefits Independent Booksellers” on Thursday, January 23, 3:45–4:45 p.m., Grand ABC & East, floor 1, Marriott.