Microprocessing

Two Book Startups Compete Where Amazon Won’t

Bookshop and Libro.fm hope to change your shopping habits. Will it last after the pandemic?

Angela Lashbrook
OneZero
Published in
9 min readMay 5, 2020

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A photo of a bookshelf at an Amazon Books store where a Kindle is displayed next to the books.
Books are displayed along side an Amazon Kindle device. Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today to give you a better tomorrow.

If there’s one silver lining from the pandemic — at least where our online lives are concerned — it’s the emergence of viable small competitors to corporate giants that many of us have become accustomed to. Zoom triumphed over Facebook and Google; now that it, too, is a kind of monolith that’s driving some people to exhaustion, quirky startups are providing fun video chat alternatives. And Amazon, no longer able to fulfill two-day Prime shipping guarantees, is facing some meaningful competition of its own.

Though they may not unseat the retail giant (it’s hard to imagine what would), these companies give consumers interesting — and more ethically comfortable — alternatives at a pivotal time. Suddenly, people are discovering new portals to online commerce that may change their digital habits for good. Two startups in particular are edging in on Amazon’s original turf: books. The companies are Libro.fm, an independent audiobook company similar to Audible, and Bookshop.org, a B-corp that launched only a few months ago and appears well on its way to dominating the independent online bookselling game — without forgetting the crucial role independent bookstores and their brilliant booksellers serve as members of local communities.

“We went through growth that I expected to happen over the course of two and a half, three years — we went through it in about four weeks,” says Andy Hunter, founder and CEO of Bookshop. “It’s been insane.”

The company launched in January, and though it faces an uphill battle in its fight against the tech giant, it has a few tricks up its sleeve. Bookshop has a strong affiliate program and offers significant benefits to local bookstores that join forces with the website, lending those sellers publicity through Bookshop’s channels and giving them 30% of the cover price off any sales they instigate — all…

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Angela Lashbrook
OneZero

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.