As a Project Manager at Newgen Publishing UK, I manage the production process for a range of different titles. I usually work mainly with Bristol University Press titles, and I love them because, among many other things, they’re so deliciously socialist and left-leaning – a bias I uphold shamelessly – and the topics are so relevant and fascinating. For example: we have just completed Body Count, a highly sobering overview of Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion in 2003, and have been working on their fast-track COVID-19 collection of titles, most of which have the ‘build back better’ ethos at their core.
Speaking of the ol’ pandemic, hands up who else can add ‘guilt surrounding excessive financial contribution to unscrupulous online behemoth’ to the many, many anxiety-inducing things about 2020? Fellow Amazon-Primers, hello. You know how deep the Amazon ‘You might also like this’ algorithm rabbit hole goes for books in particular, I can see it in your eyes. If you’re anything like me, you may have simply been living with this guilt but I am here to tell you that something brilliant has happened and you no longer have to.
Bookshop.org is that special and rare thing where something people have been saying would be really great for ages but thought simply wouldn’t be possible has proven to be actually possible and is now alive and well on the interwebz. As we learned at the autumn 2020 IPG conference – Newgen is a big supporter of IPG and attends annually – Bookshop.org provides a central location for any and all independent bookshops who want to sell their books online but don’t have the resources to do so. Each bookshop gets its own online ‘shop front’ and can provide information about themselves and present title selections.
The particular beauty of it is that Bookshop.org also manage the customer service and the shipping and require no financial investment by the bookshops themselves, and bookshops take home the full profit margin (30%). Here in the UK, they have partnered with distributor Gardners and can pass on a small discount to customers, made possible by the fact that Bookshop.org can deal in bulk, whereas individual bookshops cannot. The site met with success upon its launch in the US in January of this year, and the founder – writer and co-founder of Literary Hub Andy Hunter – expedited the UK launch once the pandemic hit and it became apparent that independent bookshops across the country were in especially dire need of some help.
And it’s really, really good! Bookshop.org have actual humans doing the curating. So you find great book categories, akin to those you would, you know, stumble across in your local bookshop, lovingly devised by its dedicated staff; from the delightfully-specific-on-a-website-which-caters-for-the-whole-country ‘Mystery and Thrillers set in Devon’, to the inspiring, ‘If it’s not good enough, change it’, and the reassuring, ‘Comfort Reading to Pretend We’re Not Living in 2020’. And you get to see the total amount ‘raised for local bookshops’, set as part of the header on every page, steadily increasing which is truly heartening. It may not be an equal match to Goliath, but gosh if the slingshot hasn’t increased in size and its aim improved significantly.
Living in Stroud as I do, I was initially rather perturbed to see no evidence of Stroud Bookshop on the site, but am pleased to say that they have since sprung up which, incidentally, is the exact opposite direction to where my bank balance has headed since finding them there, sigh. Stroud Bookshop is a lovely, uncomplicated little local bookshop, overstuffed and slightly hallyracket, as all the best ones are. If I can’t shuffle along its closely stacked shelves with that slightly overwhelming giddy sensation I always get when that close to so very many new books, Bookshop.org is a happy, gratefully received substitute.