Being an Ethical Bookseller
Being an environmentally and socially responsible bookseller is not straightforward. We have little or no influence on the production of the products we sell, their distribution, promotion – or even how much we can sell them for. Our margins are small, and our fixed costs on the high street are high. The UK book market is massively competitive. Our main competitor Amazon – and they also own huge swathes of the book market: Book Depository, Abe, Audible, CreateSace, and GoodReads, for example.
In addition to the widely known issues with Amazon’s tax and working practices, the book trade is affected by the way that the sale price of a book directly impacts what authors earn. A proportion of the cost of discounting is passed directly on to authors and illustrators – yet they have no say whatever in how much Amazon choose to sell their books for.
The book trade is inherently wasteful. More than 20% of all stock bought from publishers is sent back unsold. Distributors use vast amounts of packaging materials to protect their titles in transit – and expect the same of us when we return them.
However, none of the above affects our determination to trade as ethically as we can – or to reward our team as well as we can.
We stock what we believe will sell, almost (but not quite) regardless of the publisher. However, rather than sourcing our stock directly from publishers, we source most of our titles from one or two wholesalers. When we made this change our average daily deliveries reduced from between 6 and 10 boxes (rarely full), to between 1 and 3 (pretty full).
We are sympathetic to smaller and independent publishers, but their supply and return systems are typically less efficient, and (for a host of reasons), their products less likely to sell. However, being available through one of the wholesalers has a significant positive impact on our buying decisions from smaller publishers.
Where we are able, we use the greenest option for every thing we use to run our shops.Our bags are 100% recycled paper, we use 100% renewable energy, and we recycle and re-use everything we can. Our website provider uses green energy.
Where we can, we use green and ethical products throughout the shops, bought locally.
We happily pay our taxes. We equally happily try to raise money for charities when we can – the money from bag sales currently goes to the local Women’s Refuge, and for three years before that to a refugee charity. We regularly collect for and contribute to a variety of local charities.
We put a lot of effort into raising money for books for schools, and this is an ongoing feature of the way we work. In the first half of 2018 we raised more than Â£6000 for primary schools in Gloucestershire.
In July 2018 we opened a bank account with Triodos, an ethical bank
We pay at least the ‘real’ living wage of the Living Wage Foundation, and contribute more than the minimum to our company pension scheme.
We have not focussed enough on either internal or external training, but we are committed to all our staff going on at least one external training course every year.
The shop is a limited company, with shares currently split between members of the manager’s family (Hereward).
However, we are aware of the challenges and difficulties involved – and how they can change. We try our best, but don’t always get things right.
Contact Hereward at the shop, or at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.