New online bookseller focuses on customer interaction

A new bookshop enterprise is set to launch this spring, offering a fresh approach to online bookselling.

Kieron Smith, former CEO of The Book Depository, which after generating annual sales of close to £100 million was purchased by Amazon in 2011, unveiled his new venture at the Independent Publishing Guild conference last week, calling for support from the wider publishing industry. will showcase books from around the world which Smith believes do not currently get the attention they deserve. In addition the site will offer categories in multiple languages and will provide a new platform for specialist sellers, publishers and authors.

As well as partnering with independent retailers across the globe, the website will sell directly to customers, too, with fulfilment from one UK-based distribution centre.

"We believe good bookselling is a craft, that careful selection and exceptional service makes for more delighted book buyers," Smith explained.

"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 at the moment."

Talking to Essential Retail, he said that customer interaction is an important factor in the bookselling process, and this will be facilitated on the new website through discussion threads that all users can access, including the retailer itself.

"Interaction is the way to go online, rather than reviews," he noted. "Everyone thinks book retailing has been done, but this is a fresh approach."

Smith is an experienced online retail figure, having been head of online operations at Game Group and head of eCommerce at Waterstones prior to his role at The Book Depository.

Using that experience, in addition to the last two years spent at The Book Depository under Amazon's ownership, Smith hopes to open up the world of literature to readers on an international scale.

"I don't believe that readers get to see some of the very exciting publishing happening out there at the moment," he added.

"We're living our lives more globally, yet getting access to a worldwide platform for books is tough. Books both new and vintage should be properly showcased, readers haven't abandoned their love of print quite yet."

Since encouraging publishers and booksellers to get involved in the new venture, there has been some encouraging feedback over the last week.

"The bookselling community has been really supportive – we're trying to join up everyone who is involved in the industry," Smith noted.

No official launch date has been confirmed, but BestLittleBookshop is expected to be live and operating within the next few months.