Retail

Simon & Schuster, Authors Back Online Bookstore Helping Indie Sellers

Simon & Schuster Backs Shop Helping Indie Sellers

As bookstores remain shuttered nationwide, a 3-month-old online seller is stepping up.

The Associated Press reported Andy Hunter, who recently launched Bookshop.org, saw the bookseller’s crisis long before the coronavirus pandemic closed many of the country’s stores.

“Between 2015 and 2018, I saw this big jump in the percentage of weekly sales for physical books that were going to Amazon.com,” Hunter told the AP. “And it seemed like independent bookstores needed to do something to adapt because the writing was on the wall.”

Hunter launched the site in January and said weekly sales at first were around $30,000. But sales soared to more than $450,000 by mid-March, as the virus spread and readers no longer could visit their favorite local stores, the AP said.

Here’s how Bookshop.org helps indie book retailers. Ten percent of the list price of everything it sells goes to a pool for indie booksellers with brick-and-mortar stores that are American Booksellers Association (ABA) members, the trade group for independent stores. Brick-and-mortar ABA members earn 25 percent of the list price of any sale, much more than the normal 10 percent affiliate fee.

On Tuesday (March 31), Simon & Schuster became the first major publisher to partner with Hunter’s site. It added buy buttons for Bookshop.org to all of its websites. It also asked authors, including Stephen King, Susan Orlean and Jason Reynolds, to promote Bookshop on social media.

“Independent bookstores are the lifeline of the intellect,” King told the AP in a statement. “They have to remain strong, especially in difficult times like these.”

Hunter told the AP he sees Bookshop.org as serving a niche within a niche in independent selling.

“Our customers have shown up for us in such a big way that it honestly makes my heart ache with appreciation — for them and for the Bookshop.org folks who created what has essentially turned out to be a lifeline during this terrible time,” he said, per the AP.

Allison Hill, ABA’s CEO, told the AP that recent online sales are unprecedented. But she cautioned these sales don’t make up for lost sales due to stores being closed.

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