« Global Trade Talk

Bloggers Credited with Boosting 2010 Sales at UK Online Bookseller Book Depository

By Roger Tagholm

LONDON: Back in 2009 we first profiled the Book Depository, a UK-based online bookseller, about their global ambitions. So, some 18 months later, how did the Book Depository – still not a household name when it comes to bookselling –- achieve a rise in sales of more than 70% for the half year to December 2010? “If you blog it, they will come.” A paraphrase of the famous line from Field of Dreams goes some way to explain this happy situation.

Book Depository

“We do very well with bloggers,” says Book Depository MD Kieron Smith. “There are lots of very good book blogs out there. We don’t seem to have go and find them – they come to us and many of them now take stock feeds from us for particular subjects. They’re part of our affiliates programme, so they get a commission on sales which they’re very upfront about with their readers. We haven’t spent anything at all on above-the-line advertising, and the amount we spend on Google adwords is tiny. The Net has knocked down the old advertising barriers – it’s all about relationships now.”

But of course the viral power of the Net to spread the word only works if the company in question can deliver – and here the Book Depository clearly scores. “We make a huge amount of the fact that we have 6.2 million titles that can be dispatched within 48 hours,” says Smith. “Nobody else has that range, and we offer free postage too. Our vision is to make as many titles as possible available to as many people as possible. We’re now trading with 101 countries [you can track sales as they happen globally on a map on their website]. Eastern Europe has grown seriously, for example, and we do well in Singapore where there is an ex-pat community. We find that word gradually spreads into the local population.”

It’s worth noting too that, unlike Amazon, the Book Depository is exclusively books. Has Amazon damaged its brand by selling too much?

Smith is clearly delighted by the Book Depository’s growth -– and deserves to be. He has more than paid his dues, having worked in the UK book trade for nearly 20 years at companies ranging from WHSmith and Book Club Associates, to Ottakar’s and Waterstone’s. He helped set up the social networking site BookRabbit only to see its chief investor disappear almost immediately. “Fortunately, most of the team came with me to the Book Depository and now it’s great to be in a business that’s growing. It’s good to be selling more books -– that’s what I joined this industry to do.”

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4 Comments

  1. Adam Belter
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t it kind of negate the independent spirit of blogging if bloggers are taking a cut of sales (even if they are upfront about it with their readers)?

  2. Posted February 12, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I personally haven’t joined the affiliates program for Book Depository (so I’m not earning any money from them) but since I discovered it it is the only place I buy books from online, and I’ve told ALL my online-book-shopper friends about it. The prices are ALWAYS way cheaper than what we get in book shops here (South Africa) and the major plus for me is the free delivery! Book Depository rocks!

  3. Posted February 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Adam-

    The FTC in America says bloggers have to state if links go to an affiliate program so we are all up front about it here, and we have to say if a book is free from a publisher too. If we join affiliate programs usually we do it at places we love and buy products from ourselves. I shop a lot at Book Depository even though I am not a part of their program. Bloggers who do join use the affiliate money (which usually isn’t a lot) to give books away and for shipping books to people :D

    This is a great article. I am so happy to see that a company like Book Depository sees a positive side to book blogging and that we can be tapped as a viable marketing tool for services that are great.

  4. Posted February 15, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    What Pam said. I’m not in America so I’m not covered by the FTC regulations, but I still disclose my commercial affiliation with BD for ethical reasons. We don’t get a “cut of the sales” of the books we review, by the way. We get 5% of anything bought on the site if the person has accessed it through one of our links – but only on that specific visit. If we introduce someone to Book Depository and they buy something on their first visit, we’ll probably get a small amount if money. But in future visits, they will likely access the site directly, so there’s nothing in it for us but the knowledge of having introduced someone to a great bookshop. And that’s fine by me.

    I have been a Book Depository affiliate for over 2 years now, and in that time I have made a grand total of around £50. This money has mostly been used to finance book giveaways on my blog. So even if we lacked integrity to such an extent that we would be willing to pretend to love every book we read in order to trick people into following the link, buying it, and making us around 30p per sale, it really wouldn’t be worth it.

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