BA, Bookshop.org respond to criticism from booksellers
In the UK, the Booksellers Association (BA) and Bookshop.org have responded to criticism about how effective the website will be at supporting indie bookshops, as well as the BA’s role in the site’s launch, reports the Bookseller.
Following discussion on social media, bookseller Tamsin Rosewell wrote a letter to BA managing director Meryl Halls, which was subsequently leaked to the press. According to the Bookseller, which has seen the letter, Rosewell states there is ‘discontent’ among booksellers and publishers, who are growing ‘increasingly bitter’.
Rosewell wrote that there are numerous questions over how the affiliates scheme would work for indies, publishers, and authors, describing the launch marketing as ‘far more aggressive than is appropriate’. Rosewell also raised concerns about the BA’s role in bringing Bookshop.org to the UK, and the requirement that participating bookshops should be members of the BA, querying what the impact would be on established bookshop websites such as those operated by Waterstones and Blackwell’s. ‘This general lack of transparency and accountability raises more complex questions,’ Rosewell wrote.
According to an article in the New Statesman, Bookshop.org’s arrival has ‘caused great unease in parts of the book trade’, with ‘many’ stores telling the magazine ‘Bookshop.org is far from the saviour they need’. ‘Bookshops earn less through sales on Bookshop.org than they would from selling their books direct to customers, and booksellers fear the site, rather than competing with Amazon, is diverting shoppers away from the high street,’ the New Statesman writes.
In response, Halls wrote to Rosewell: ‘I understand that you remain unconvinced about Bookshop.org—plenty of booksellers remain unconvinced, I know—we have a pluralist membership and they will all have a different view. There is nothing compulsory about any of this; on the contrary, it is all optional.’
Halls also noted that the BA has no financial interest in Bookshop.org, and receives no income from sales made. Responding to the criticism that indies had to be members of the BA, Halls said it was the same model as used in the US, and its intention was to make sure that ‘only genuine, bricks and mortar indie bookshops would benefit’.
Bookshop.org UK managing director Nicole Vanderbilt said: ‘We understand that some may have questions, and we welcome any feedback from independent booksellers on how best to fulfil our mission and support them. We are an open company and eager to hear new ideas, address concerns, and collaborate. We hope anyone with concerns will reach out to us directly.’
‘Since we launched, we have always maintained the single best way to support an independent bookshop is to buy from them directly,’ said Vanderbilt. ‘Bookshop.org is meant to be a simple, free platform for shops to capture online sales and counter Amazon. Many stores will have their own e-commerce solutions and we respect that Bookshop.org won’t be right for everyone.’
Bookshop.org launched in the UK on 2 November, pulling in sales of around £65,000 (A$119,000) in its first day of trade. The UK introduction came after Bookshop.org founder Andy Hunter launched the site in the US earlier this year in an attempt to counter Amazon’s huge share of online sales and the number of sites that link through to it. The US website has around 900 retailers signed up and is expecting sales of US$50 million (A$69m) in 2020.
In May this year Australian Bookseller’s Association CEO Robbie Egan told Books+Publishing that he’d ‘love to bring that model here‘ but cited factors including development costs, the size of Australia’s overall publishing market and the lack of a centralised book distributor as potential barriers.
Category: International news