Technology is on sale and looking to the future in the fight against Amazon – TechCrunch

If Gutenberg were alive today, he would be a very busy angel investor.

Humbly written words suddenly came into the limelight of VCs and founders as book sales surged during the blockade of COVID-19 last year.We’ve seen hordes of new products and funding, including algorithmic recommendation engines BingeBooksReading club startups like Literati And the proper name Book club, And streaming services Ritnered..There was also an exit and a potential exit Growth, Lit Charts When very..

But one company that has captured the imagination of many readers Bookshop.orgHas become a reliable platform for independent local bookstores to build an online storefront and compete with Amazon’s Jaguar Notebook. Debuting just as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in January 2020, the company quickly gained the headlines and profile of its founder Andy Hunter, a hard-working publisher with a deep love for the reading ecosystem. Did.

How is it holding up after a year and a half? The good news for the company is that even if customers return to retail stores, including bookstores, Bookshop hasn’t been hit by a recession. Hunter said August sales were up 10% from July sales and are expected to reach about the same number in 2021 as in 2020. over 1 year. “That means our sales are additive,” he said.

Bookshop currently hosts 1,100 stores on its platform and has over 30,000 affiliates curating book recommendations. These lists are central to the Bookshop offering. “All of these recommended lists are available not only from bookstores, but also from literary magazines, literary organizations, book lovers and librarians,” said Hunter.

Bookshop, a public interest corporation, makes money by moving inventory, just like any e-commerce business. But what sets it apart is that you’re pretty free to pay for affiliates and bookstores participating in platform seller programs. Affiliates are paid 10% of the sale, but the bookstore itself receives 30% of the cover price of the sale generated through the platform. In addition, 10% of affiliate and direct sales in Bookshop will be placed in the profit sharing pool and shared with member bookstores. According to its website, Bookshop has paid bookstores $ 15.8 million since its launch.

The company has made a lot of progress in the first year and a half, but what will happen next? It’s important for hunters to build products that will continue to attract both customers and bookstores in the simplest way possible. “Keep your Occam’s razor,” he says of product philosophy. For all features, “It adds to the experience and doesn’t confuse customers.”

Of course, it’s easy to say. “The current challenge for me is to create a very attractive platform for our customers, do everything the bookstore wants us to do, and create the best online book buying and selling experience.” Said Hunter. What that often means in practice is to make the product feel “human” (like shopping at a bookstore) while helping the bookstore maximize its online benefits.

Andy Hunter, CEO and founder of Image Credit: Idris Solomon

For example, Hunter said the company is working hard with bookstores to optimize its recommendation list for search engine discovery. SEO is different from the skills you acquire in the traditional retail industry, but staying competitive online is very important. “Currently, there are stores that are ranked number one on Google for recommended books from the book list,” he said. “Two years ago, these links were all Amazon links.” He also said the company has layered best practices for email marketing, customer communication, and optimization of conversion rates to the platform. Said. offers tens of thousands of lists, offering a more “human” approach to finding books than algorithm recommendations.

For customers, the big future focus of Bookshop is to avoid the algorithm-recommended model that is popular among the top Silicon Valley companies, instead of a much more human-curated experience. With tens of thousands of affiliates, “it feels like a bustling nest of institutions and retailers that make up the diverse ecosystem around books,” said Hunter. “They all have their own personality [and we want to] Please show their individuality. “

There’s a lot to do, but that doesn’t mean the dark clouds aren’t threatening on the horizon.

Of course, Amazon is the company’s biggest challenge. Hunter said the company’s Kindle devices are so popular that they give e-commerce giants even more powerful lock-ins that cannot be achieved by physical sales. “It’s very difficult to sell an ebook so that someone can read it on the Kindle because of the agreement between DRM and the publisher,” he said, comparing Microsoft’s bundle of Internet Explorer with Windows. “A proceeding needs to be filed.” It’s true that people love the Kindle, but “if you love Amazon, you have to admit that it’s not healthy.”

I asked if he was worried about the number of startups raising money in the book space, and if that money could potentially overwhelm the Bookshop. “Reading club start-ups can succeed by placing books and have conversations about books in front of a large audience,” Hunter believes. “That’s why everyone will succeed.” He is interested in focusing on “confusion” and “hopes they succeed in the way they partner with independent bookstores and members of existing communities.” I am. “

Ultimately, Hunter’s strategic interests aren’t even directed to the question of whether competitors or books are dead (but not), but they are a more specific challenge. Today’s publishing ecosystem ensures that only a handful of books will succeed.Often referred to as the “midlist”

Hunters are worried about the nature of books, which are becoming more and more popular these days. “One book inhales most oxygen and most of the conversation, or the top 20 books. [while] Great and innovative works by young writers and diverse voices have not received the attention they deserve, “he said. Bookshop hopes that human curation through lists will help maintain a vibrant book ecosystem rather than the recommended algorithms that always push readers to the biggest winners.

As Bookshop opens its third year, Hunter wants to continue to focus on humans and bring a rich experience of browsing in-store to the online world. After all, it’s about intentionality. “We want people to understand that all of these little decisions about where we shop and how we shop are creating the future in which we live. “I hope the bookstore is not only a place to fulfill your citizens’ obligations, but also fun to shop.” is on sale and looking to the future in the fight against Amazon – TechCrunch

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