When Brooklyn resident Andy Hunter founded Bookshop.org and launched it at the end of January, he figured it would take him 2-3 years before he and his team would be able to get serious traction. Their goal was a big one: to encourage people to stop buying books from Amazon and start supporting local bookstores by buying books online through the Bookshop.org site.
“We felt a real sense of urgency,” says Hunter. “It was about how much Amazon has taken over the book market, and needing to get independent bookstores situated so they could hold their own.”
Instead, the COVID-19 crisis happened, forcing many bookstores across the country to close. Amazon has classified books as nonessential during this time, meaning that book shipments will take much longer to arrive. This has created an opportunity for Bookshop.
“Now, there are days where we’re selling $150,000 worth of books a day, and we’re currently supporting over 450 stores,” says Hunter. As of press time, they had raised over $3,322,575 for independent bookstores.
All customer orders are sent to Ingram, the largest wholesaler for books in the United States. They pack and ship from their warehouses in different locations around the country, following safety protocols and only allowing a certain number of employees to work at the same time.
“The bookstores don’t have to touch a book. If you’re a small bookstore, you don’t have a lot of resources to take online orders, to build fancy websites,” says Hunter. “We created a simple model to tackle all the hurdles to e-commerce. It takes 30 minutes to build a site on Bookshop. All they need to do is let their customers know they’re on it.”
It’s easy to shop online, with curated lists, staff picks, and books arranged by category, including a section called “Boredom Busters” and “Reduce Stress and Cultivate Joy,” which seems especially important these days.
“For independent bookstores and for Bookshop, this has been a silver lining,” Hunter says. “Hopefully some of these consumer habits — and the support we’re seeing right now — will become permanent.”
To purchase books online and support independent bookstores, visit bookshop.org.
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