By Tony Winterburn • 11 November 2020 • 7:13
250 Independent UK Bookshops Band Together to Form New Online Platform Against Fierce Competition From Amazon.
Faced with closures because of coronavirus measures and fierce competition from retail giant Amazon, 250 independent UK bookshops have now banded together on a new online platform. “It’s important to support independent booksellers,” Anna Henrikson, 54 and a regular customer at Primrose Hill Books said as she collected her most recent purchase.
The north London bookshop is one of those to join the Bookshop.org platform, which started in Britain on November 2 after being launched in the United States. Its arrival could provide a lifeline to small bookshops, particularly as England has effectively gone into lockdown again for a month to cut virus infection rates.
Unlike other European nations such as Belgium, authorities in Britain, where more than 48,000 people have died in the outbreak, have deemed books non-essential items. For Jessica Graham, the owner of Primrose Hill Books, the irony is not lost that she is being forced to shut her doors just as demand for books is rising with more people at home.
“People are reading more, perhaps people who normally read anyway got a little bit more time and people who perhaps lost the habit of reading a little bit had picked up a book and rediscovered the pleasure and solace of reading,” she said.
According to a report published in May by market research company Nielsen, two out of five adults said they read more during the first UK-wide lockdown, introduced in late March. The average reading time in the country rose from 3.5 hours to six hours a week.
The shuttering of bookshops ahead of the busy Christmas period is particularly hard for independent booksellers. “We had a store full of books for Christmas, and suddenly we have no customers,” Graham explained. During the first lockdown, which lasted until June, her sales plummeted by 50 per cent overnight.
But she now hopes that by joining Bookshop.org she will be able to better weather the current restrictions. The director of Bookshop.org, Nicole Vanderbilt, is aware that the platform’s British launch comes at a difficult time for the industry.
“We had actually always planned on launching early November, we weren’t aware of the second lockdown in England at the time, but unfortunately it hasn’t been good timing for us,” she said.
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