'A town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore, it knows it's not foolin' a soul.'
- Neil Gaiman, American Gods
For most booklovers, bookshops - especially independent bookshops, that care about their books and their readers, stock just what you didn't know you wanted, and provide recommendations for your Next Big Read - are places of pilgrimage. Yet they're under threat like never before, closed in the face of COVID and battling the might of Amazon, with its staggering inventory, low prices and seductively easy ordering.
Faced with the bleak vision of the end of bookshops on the high street, publisher Andy Hunter and the American Booksellers Association decided to put up a fight. They created bookshop.org, a B-Corp dedicated to matching Amazon's logistical might but with a key difference: their profits would go not into one man's already over-full pockets but be shared with the wider book ecosystem, and especially independent bookstores.
Bookshop.org is now in the UK, and in this conversation I talk to Jasper Sutcliffe (formerly at Foyles) about how it works, why it matters, and how to make the most of it as an author as well as a reader.