A new initiative aims to make it easier for Canadian readers to shop at their local bookstores.
The Shop Local button, which Bookmanager is formally launching later this month, shows readers which local independents have the books they’re looking for as easily as ordering from a virtual retail giant such as Amazon.
The idea for the button grew out of Bookmanager’s Find a Bookstore page, which was launched in 2012. Publishers and others in the industry often wrote to ask whether the page could include inventory information, says Bookmanager team member Chris Stephenson, who has been working on the initiative over the last few months. As #shoplocal – the concept and the hashtag – began to take off last year after the first COVID-19 lockdown, the Bookmanager team created the free and fully customizable widget that publishers, bloggers, and authors alike can add to their websites beside book listings and reviews to make it easier for readers to find titles at their local indies.
“We want to get people on board,” Stephenson says. “It makes everyone stronger and bolsters the industry across the board.”
The widget is already in action at 49thshelf.com, a Canadian book site produced by the Association of Canadian Publishers.
Bookmanager’s website allows readers to take Shop Local for a spin. After searching for a book, a click on the shop-local link beside the title pulls up a pop-window that asks for a postal code and a preferred distance. The default distance is set to 100 km to account for readers in rural parts of the country. Clicking “search” turns up a list of nearby bookstores that have the title in stock.
Every day, Bookmanager receives data from booksellers who have opted to share their inventory, so the information about which stores have the title in stock is up to date. Booksellers who haven’t yet opted to share their inventory with Bookmanager are listed below those for which inventory information is available, alongside their website info.
The button can be customized to match website colour schemes or seasonal events, and is easy to install, Stephenson says.
Although similar online shopping links can sometimes offer monetary kickbacks for the sites that host them, Bookmanager has no plans to monetize this initiative.
“We’re in the information business, and we’re more interested in the data that might emerge from people using this,” Stephenson says. “We’re interested in hoovering up an understanding of the industry in the country.”
In conjunction with the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association (CIBA), Bookmanager is holding a Zoom info session about the shop-local button on March 24 ahead of Canadian Independent Bookstore Day on April 24.