Penguin Random House UK Launches Online Book Recommendation and Retail Platform

Penguin Random House has started to use its scale to influence the online book retail marketplace.

The company has launched My Independent Bookshop, a recommendation and retail platform where readers can curate, share, browse and buy books.

Through the platform, which is currently in private beta-testing and available by invite only, users can curate a bookshelf of up to a dozen titles — based on their favorite books, the season, all the books on a topic or by an author, for instance. They can also indicate their favorite bookshelves and create their own fully functioning bookstores.

Users can also browse shelves and shops and even buy books, through Hive.co.uk, which is the c-commerce arm of Gardners, a UK book wholesaler, which has relationships with independent bookstores across the UK. When registering, users can choose their favorite independent bookstore and pass on commissions from each purchase to that store.

When Random House merged with Penguin, creating the world’s largest publisher, there was speculation around the industry that the new giant would somehow move to challenge Amazon and other large retailers in some way or another to shift the balance of power in the book marketplace. With this new launch, the big publisher may be delivering on some of that speculation.

With My Independent Bookshop, Penguin Random House UK is attempting to create a book recommendation platform that could help challenge the existing online book shopping status quo while supporting bricks-and-mortar bookshops. It could also give the company data insight into what books readers want to share and what books they buy.

[Press Release]

Penguin Random House UK launches ‘My Independent Bookshop’: celebrating the joy of human recommendation
Share the books you love now. Discover what you’ll love next.

· Curate your dream bookshop · Recommend and review books · Enjoy community rewards · Connect with your local independent bookshop ·
· Terry Pratchett first to open virtual shop and give readers a window into his top reads ·

Penguin Random House UK has today launched ‘My Independent Bookshop’, a new reader recommendation platform allowing book lovers to set up a virtual bookshop, share their favourite reads and discover, recommend and review books online. Supported by Terry Pratchett, ‘My Independent Bookshop’ will create a vibrant community of virtual shops and high streets with human recommendation and discovering new stories at its heart.

The free site launches today in closed beta, kick-starting a month-long period where select authors and book fans will be invited to join the community and start creating their shops. Anyone with an interest can also register at www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk to be among the first to set up their virtual bookshop when ‘My Independent Bookshop’ goes live to the general public.

‘My Independent Bookshop’ users can set up their shop with twelve books at a time on their shelves – changing the display as often as they choose by season, genre or simply their mood. This could be based on their twelve favourite books or covers, the dozen books that made them cry, or, if they are an author, the last twelve books they wrote – the possibilities are endless. Users can also bring together their favourite shops from across the platform to create their own personal high street with shop owners as diverse as their best loved authors, closest friends, or local librarian, to help them find complementary and unexpected new reads.

Integration with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ makes it easy for readers to give their friends, family and fans in their social networks a window into their shops. Through the website itself readers can also share and request personal recommendations from among the ‘My Independent Bookshop’ community if they choose.

Anyone setting up an online bookshop will be eligible for rewards including the chance to meet authors, personalise their bookshop and have access to early copies of brand new titles and sought-after tickets to book events; all organised by Penguin Random House UK especially for the ‘My Independent Bookshop’ community.

Commenting on the launch, Hannah Telfer, Group Director, Consumer & Digital Development at Penguin Random House UK, said: “People are becoming ever more sophisticated in the way they move between their social, digital and physical worlds. We want to harness the opportunities this creates to celebrate the power of human recommendation. By giving people the magical experience of curating their own bookshop and sharing this with their communities we are putting the discovery of great books and authors – no matter who they are published by – directly into the hands of book lovers.”

“Through our conversations with readers on the Penguin Random House UK consumer panel, Bookmarks, we’ve already received some wonderful anecdotes from book lovers about how they will build their ideal bookshop. We hope to inspire ongoing conversations around books and deliver great stories to readers in a fun and very personal way.”

Those readers who don’t want to set up shop can still wander down virtual high streets, browse friends’ or best-loved authors’ windows and discover – and buy – great books. All books in the virtual shops are available to buy online through hive.co.uk, the ecommerce arm of Gardners wholesalers, which is connected with hundreds of independent bookshops across the UK. As part of the registration process, ‘My Independent Bookshop’ users can choose their favourite real-world independent bookshop to connect with. Hive will then pass a commission from any purchase made through the website to their chosen shop.

Outlining his support for ‘My Independent Bookshop’, author Terry Pratchett, said: “Independent bookshops supported this jobbing genre author long before the geeks were let out of their wardrobes, being able to support these talented retail wizards through ‘My Independent Bookshop’ is a very, very good thing. The personal aspect of sharing recommendations in your own online shop gives readers the ability to discover surprising new worlds in an interesting way. Go on, have a virtual rummage around – you’ll never know what you might find.”

Commenting on the partnership, Julie Howkins, eCommerce Manager at Gardners, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Penguin Random House UK. This collaboration allows hive to be part of a fantastic initiative which will not only encourage people to share their passion for reading and books with like-minded people, but will also help support hundreds of independent bookshops across the UK.”

‘My Independent Bookshop’ was devised and developed in partnership with independent digital agency, Collective.

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