To mark its second anniversary since launching just months before the pandemic, Bookshop.org is running the Golden Bookmark Sweepstakes that will give one lucky winner free books for life (as if our TBR piles weren’t already out of control).
Launched in January 2020 as a more ethical alternative to Amazon, Bookshop.org now helps over 1,300 local and independent bookstores by providing a free, viable online storefront where they can profit from online book sales. Take a look at how you can win free books for life and learn more about what Bookshop.org is doing to reinvigorate the ecosystem of local bookstores.
Get Your Chance to Win Free Books for Life
The Golden Bookmark Sweepstakes, inspired by the Golden Ticket contest in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, will give one winner $600 worth of Bookshop.org gift cards every year for life.
That winner also gets to pick a bookstore to receive a one-time $500 donation from the company. Plus, even if you don’t luck out and get the grand prize, five second-place winners will each receive a one-time gift card for $100.
To enter the sweepstakes, follow this link to fill out the short entry form before February 28th, when the competition ends. That form gives you one entry into the sweepstakes — but you can increase your odds by encouraging others to enter, too.
Once you complete the form for yourself, you’ll get a unique referral link that you can use to invite others to enter the sweepstakes. For each person who enters using your referral link, you get five extra bonus entries to increase your odds of getting picked. There’s no limit to the number of bonus entries you can earn this way.
You can read the full terms and conditions of the sweepstakes through this link.
Bookshop.org Is Taking on the Amazon Empire
The founder and CEO of Bookshop.org, Andy Hunter, collaborated with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and the book wholesaler, Ingram, to launch the eCommerce platform as a more sustainable and equitable alternative to Amazon.
In the words of Biblioracle columnist, John Warner in a 2020 article on the launch of the company for the Chicago Tribune, “Consider them the Rebel Alliance standing up to the Amazon Empire.”
For many local, independent bookstores, the rise of Amazon has meant the fall of their own businesses. A 2021 white paper by the ABA reports that Amazon now controls 42% of all physical book sales, both online and in stores. The eCommerce behemoth also controls 83% of e-book sales, over 40% of new book sales, and about 85% of self-published e-book sales.
Organizations in the publishing industry, including ABA and Authors United, are arguing that Amazon gained this excessive market share through predatory pricing, including purposefully selling books at a loss and requiring authors and publishers to sell at Amazon’s pre-set prices.
A company generating $386 billion each year in net sales could afford to eat the losses of selling books at such low prices because book sales account for less than 10% of its total revenue. Meanwhile, independent bookstores, for whom book sales are the core source of income, can’t afford to compete.
Many avid readers and consumers are aware of the destruction Amazon has wrought on the publishing industry. The loss of a local bookstore is often much more than the loss of a local business. It’s the loss of book signings with your favorite authors, readings and discussions, book clubs, and a knowledgeable in-store staff ready to make personal (not algorithmic) recommendations on what to read next.
Local bookstores are community hubs as well as a place to buy books, and many of us grieve that loss deeply. But we have also come to depend on the convenience, expedience, and affordability of online book buying.
That’s the tension that Bookshop.org is seeking to address: the tension between the desire to help rebuild a thriving ecosystem of local, independent bookstores and the need for the accessibility and affordability that eCommerce sales can provide.
While buying in-store will always be the best way to support a local bookstore, Bookshop.org is aiming to be the best way to support them online. It’s doing that by providing an eCommerce business model designed to funnel more revenue into local and independent bookstores so that they can keep their physical locations open and continue to act as a hub for their local communities.
For Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, for example, the eCommerce platform has empowered the bookstore and publishing house to further its mission of promoting literacy and social justice.
“Bookshop has meant growing our business with the support of our community,” said Dr. Artika R. Tyner, founder of the St. Paul, Minnesota literacy organization. “Thanks to Bookshop, we have been able to expand our inventory and offer additional resources for the community.”
The Bookshop.org Business Model
The financial support that the eCommerce platform provides comes in two key forms:
- 30% of the cover price (the entire profit margin) of any sales a bookstore generates through its Bookshop.org page go straight to the bookstore.
- 10% of all regular sales on the site are added to a pool that is divided and distributed evenly to all independent bookstores twice a year.
Bookshop.org also contributes additional funding to this pool by matching every dollar earned through the 10% affiliate sales commission (generated when you buy a book through an affiliate link like those found in the lists and reviews in the books section of A Little Bit Human).
Wordsmith Bookshoppe in Galesburg, IL was able to use the revenue boost from this to give back to its community by supporting local teachers. “In July, we had the honor of paying forward our ‘pool’ payout funds to our community,” Owner Teri Rene Parks explained.
“We chose five area teachers from different school districts to receive $400 (retail) in books for their classroom libraries. Our teachers were overwhelmed with the opportunity to add to their libraries without having the additional expense themselves.”
Thanks to Bookshop.org, the local bookstore was able to make a full recovery from the hit it took during the pandemic. “We are hitting all of our pre-COVID goals as outlined in our business plan,” Parks added. The bookstore intends to do the same thing for more teachers with all future payouts from the pool.
In the two years since Bookshop.org launched, this model has already generated over $18.7 million for independent bookstores like Planting People Growing Justice and Wordsmith Bookshoppe across the United States.