Great British Bookshop battles against the might of Amazon

The Great British Bookshop has set up shop to offer an online rival to Amazon, at least in the UK, but it looks as if it faces an uphill fight.

The rather uninspiring website is decked out in patriotic colours and an iconic backdrop of London which somehow manages to include The Angel of the North, which is firmly sited in Gateshead, 250 miles north of London.

It’s early days yet but my viewing experience wasn’t great, particularly as several of the books featured were not available. The site claims to offer around 230,000 print books and 15,000 ebooks. The ebooks are mainly in epub format although some are also offered in PDF.

I ran a comparison on a few books to check whether The Great British Bookshop matched up to prices. It doesn’t come out too badly on Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield (hardback edition), which is available on the new website for £11.45 with free shipping while is offering the book at £10.34, also with free delivery. The book’s recommended retail price is £14.99, so both sites are offering substantial discounts.

The GBB doesn’t, however, fare so well in a price comparison on the recent massive best-seller by Sir Alex Ferguson, My Life, as it offers a special “On Sale” price of £17.46, nearly a third off the RRP of £25, but way above’s price of just £9, which nearly halves the GBB’s price, although Amazon does add £2.75 for postage and packing, bringing its total to £11.75

Eat, The Little Book of Fast Food, by Nigel Slater is on offer at the GBB at £18.06 (RRP £26) while serves it up at a mere £11, with free delivery.

The price differentials remain for ebooks where, for example, the GBB has The Allotment Diaries by Kay Gardner at £6.98 for the epub version while Kobo offers the epub at £5.63 and the Kindle store prices the mobi edition at just £2.99. Why do publishers price their epubs higher than for Kindle? Surely this just penalises anyone who doesn’t use Amazon.

Open to self-publishers

The bright point is that the GBB is open to books from self-publishers and small publishers. It is owned by Print on Demand Worldwide which offers an extensive range of services to authors and publishers for print and ebooks.

You can get an instant quote on their website for printing paperback and hardback books and the firm also offers distribution to wholesalers and retailers and fulfilment.

It has some very competitive prices for short-run printing. For example, 500 copies of a 160-page paperback book in 9 inches x 6 inches (229mm x 152mm – US Royal) format with a gloss laminated colour cover (300gsm) with mono interior printing on 80gsm paper would cost £1,024, with free delivery in the UK, which works out at £2.05 per book.

That’s a good price, although it would be undercut by the print price for a comparable book through major US player IngramSpark, which offers a price of £750 (£1.50 per book), but standard shipping to the UK would add £86 and rush service nearly £300.