A little over a month ago, we profiled a relatively new online bookseller called Bookshop. When it launched at the beginning of 2020, it wasn’t planning on a pandemic; but when COVID-19 hit the U.S. and put our country’s beloved independent bookstores on death’s door, it became a lifeline for them as well as their fired or furloughed staffers.
When we hit publish on that story, Bookshop had raised about $240,000 for independent bookstores. Today, that number has topped $1.4 million. How have they done that? It goes back to what founder and CEO Andy Hunter told us about the business model: “I had to find investors who really believed in independent bookstores and their cultural importance, because the business plan was like, ‘We’re going to give all the money away to independent bookstores!’”
That is a mission we at InsideHook are more than happy to co-sign, and as such, we’re happy to announce that moving forward, all of the books we recommend on this website will be linked to Bookshop, as long as they’re available. We hope you consider ordering books from the platform both through us and in your extended book-buying life.
Previously, when InsideHook would recommend a book, we would link to Amazon most of the time. We did that for two reasons: most consumers default to Amazon anyway because of low prices and Prime memberships, and the website offers us a small affiliate kickback when they sell products from our referrals. Those reasons are also why institutions large and small, from The New Yorker to Esquire to #bookstagram bloggers, continue to link straight to Amazon from their book content.
In the interest of transparency, Bookshop’s platform also offers affiliate deals to media companies like us. But our shift is less about that and more about supporting the company’s altruistic model, which is a win for everyone: InsideHook, independent bookstores and you, the reader. Independent bookstores get a larger piece of the online-order pie, we continue to get a bit of extra revenue, and you get a discount on all books (as you’ll see on the website) — a move Hunter instituted to compete with Amazon’s tactic of pricing books so low that they don’t make any money on the sale, which means no one else can compete and Amazon continues to swallow larger shares of the book market (the Jeff Bezos Goliath currently owns about half of all new book sales).
“We’re never going to be able to beat them on price,” Hunter said. “But we can make it less likely that people will jump by offering some kind of discount.”
In the end, you are going to have to make your own decision about where your money goes when you buy books. As for us, we’re sticking with Bookshop and the independent bookstores of America, and we hope you will, too.
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