23 May Challenging the Amazon Empire: Bookshop.org Founder & CEO Andy Hunter (S2 E14)
S2 E14: Challenging the Amazon Empire: Bookshop.org Founder & CEO Andy Hunter
By Marleen Seegers, Co-Founder of 2 Seas Agency and Host of The Make Books Travel Podcast
May 23, 2021
Today’s guest is Andy Hunter, Founder & CEO of Bookshop.org. Often referred to as the indie alternative to Amazon.com, Bookshop.org proposes a socially conscious way to buy books online. It has, at the time of recording, raised close to $14 million for local bookstores in the US since its launch on January 28, 2020.
Here’s a transcript of Andy’s explanation of why he thinks it’s important to stand up to Amazon now:
I care a lot about books and writers and writing, and I was watching as Amazon was growing to be more and more of a market force in the US, and with more and more concern, and I felt like there needed to be something to offset Amazon’s growth. […] In 2015, Amazon was 37% of all new books sold, and now they’re over 50% – probably close to 60% – in the US.
[…] That’s a rate of growth of about 6-8% a year, and if you extrapolate that growth rate for the next five years that will put them in about 80% of all books sold by the end of 2025. To me, that’s a crisis […] that affects the culture and the art form that I not only love but have really dedicated my life to.
[…] Books are a major, major positive influence on humanity and have had a lot of great impact on how we view ourselves, how we understand our place in the world, how we understand politics, how we understand others. […] A very healthy ecosystem around books is essential, and any ecosystem where one player controls 80% of it, is not a healthy ecosystem.
Curious to hear more? Listen to my conversation with Andy Hunter.
Here are some of the questions I asked him:
- What were your main goals when starting out, and what was/were the biggest challenge/challenges?
- Can you briefly explain the infrastructure, logistics and business model of Bookshop.org?
- What was the initial reaction of booksellers in the US?
- Do you sell ebooks and audiobooks? How about second-hand books?
- What is Bookshop.org’s take on algorithms, which Amazon relies so heavily on?
- Now, over one year in, how is Bookshop.org doing in the US?
- Have you tweaked the platform since you launched in the US, based on booksellers’ feedback?
- Bookshop.org launched in the UK in November 2020, and more recently in Spain as well. How did these two new initiatives come about?
- Do you have any intention to branch out in other countries?
- Andy’s book recommendation:
Randa Jarrar, Love Is an Ex-Country
- About Andy:
Andy Hunter is the Founder & CEO of Bookshop.org. He is also the co-founder and publisher of Catapult press, the publisher of Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press, the co-creator and publisher of the websites Literary Hub, Crime Reads and BookMarks, and co-founder and chairman of Electric Literature. His focus is helping books remain a vital part of our culture in the digital age.
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