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Bookshop.org... for taking on Amazon: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020

Within a week of launching, the site had raised £200,000

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.

This year, the premiere of Bookshop.org marked a new chapter for independent bookshops in what has been called a revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling. Offering a viable alternative to giants like Amazon, the new platform allows readers to search for and shop a vast range of books online, at the same time as supporting their local, independent bookshops.

Created by the writer and founder of Literary Hub, Andy Hunter, Bookshop.org enables independent bookshops to set up their own virtual shop front on the site and, in turn, they receive the full profit margin of 30% of the cover price from each sale. Customer service and shipping is handled by Bookshop and delivered within two to three working days.

After launching in the US back in January, Bookshop had been operating for a mere five weeks when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, forcing bookshops around the world to close as lockdown measures were put in place to protect the population. But the shutting of physical stores marked a rapid escalation for the online platform, with $50,000 worth of books being sold in all of February, to $50,000 a day in March and $150,000 a day in April. By June, Bookshop.org was selling $1m worth of books a day, which encouraged the acceleration of a UK launch previously scheduled for early 2021.

The UK launch was brought forward in the face of an impending, second nationwide lockdown that would see the closure of bookshops in the run up to Christmas – their busiest annual period. Within a week of launching, the site had raised £200,000 to be distributed to indies across the country and has since raised over £500,000.

However, the platform has been keen to assert that it hopes to promote an environment in which physical bookshops can thrive. It includes encouragement in all of its comms that if customers have the opportunity to visit a physical shop, they should do so as it deems the existence of bookshops vital to a healthy culture.

With plans to extend into ebooks and potentially audio in the future, Bookshop is set to offer serious, more socially conscious competition to Amazon, helping independent businesses not only survive the pandemic but thrive in the new normal.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on thedrum.com between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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