To shop on Amazon, or not to shop?

That is the plight of the modern bookworm, and especially the modern bookworm in a pandemic, and most especially the modern frugal bookworm in a pandemic. If you’re worried about your favorite local bookstore being run into the ground during this tricky time for small businesses—and especially if you’re worried about small bookstores, period—Bookshop.org purports to have a solution. 

Bookshop.org sells books—you may have gotten that far without help. It’s all online, and you can have them sent at a USPS-helping, environment-saving snail’s pace or help-my-child’s-book-report-is-due-tomorrow lightning speed. What makes them different?

This, as explained by the New Statesman, "Bookshop.org works by enabling independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfronts on their site. Bookshops receive 30 per cent of a book’s cover price for each sale made through their shopfront. If a customer buys a book without going through a specific shop, 10 per cent of that book’s cover price is put into a central pot split among all participating shops."

With its unique business style, Bookshop.org positions itself as the David to Amazon's Goliath, the "Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire." Still, as one UK bookseller warns, “Bookshop.org ... seems to be attempting to homogenise [sic] all indie bookshops into one online presence.”

Additionally, as one independent bookseller told Ellen Peirson-Hagger of the New Statesman, “We’re losing out substantially.”

For every book sold via Bookshop.org, they explained, their shop makes 13-20 per cent less than if the customer had bought the same book, at the same cover price directly from the shop. “Bookshops would usually take between 43 and 50 per cent on a book,” they said. The 30 per cent an independent shop receives from each Bookshop.org sale has been described widely as a “full profit margin.”

In summary: it’s good to buy from Bookshop.org, rather than from Amazon. It’s better to buy from your local store’s Bookshop.org “virtual shopfront.” And it's best if you can manage it, to go straight to the source—buy it from a local shop’s personal website, or, if possible, mask up and head to town for an old-fashioned book-buying experience. 

How have you supported local businesses during the pandemic? Share in the comments.