February 28, 2014
New online bookstore from former Amazon/Waterstones employee Kieron Smith
by Kirsten Reach
Kieron Smith, the former managing director of Amazon‘s Book Depository, is starting his own bookselling venture. He announced the launch of an online store, Best Little Bookshop, yesterday at the Independent Publishing Guild (IPG) conference in Oxfordshire, UK.
How does a former Amazon employee approach the online bookselling game? For one, he’s decided not to sell ebooks. Smith’s company will not be algorithm-driven, either. It is supposed to be taste-driven, and he announced the site to publishers as “a collaborative effort to offer something new.”
The company, just Smith and his wife Sharon for now, will partner with booksellers and publishers to offer unusual and hard-to-find books. Publishers will be able to create profiles to sell their books to readers, though it’s not clear how many of these partnerships Smith has established, if any. The site will launch in four languages — German, English, French and Arabic — all at once.
“We believe good bookselling is a craft, that careful selection and exceptional service makes for more delighted book buyers. By being independently minded — not driven by algorithms to create book lists — we believe that we can add a human touch to book buying that is sorely missing online,” Smith told The Bookseller.
So… Bookish, but not owned by publishers. Or Zola, minus the social networking element. Or 250 Words, with less businessy business and perhaps fewer words.
The site isn’t launched yet, so you can really only get a sense of the font Smith has chosen for the logo. But he says it will be “reader-focused, professional, innovative, beautiful in design and human in character,” and hopes it will become “the most loved little online bookseller in the world.”
The word “little” is striking here because Smith’s resume includes so many big-name places. Smith was the head of e-commerce at Waterstones and the head of online operations at GAME stores before heading The Book Depository for five years. He says there’s room in the market for an online bookstore like this; there’s no doubt that we’re all constantly looking for new recommendations, but it will be some time before we see if the site can attract readers on an international level.
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.