London Bookstore Launches One-Hour Book Delivery Service to Challenge Amazon

 ‘Very streamlined’ ... the NearSt app in action. Photograph: NearSt
‘Very streamlined’ … the NearSt app in action. Photograph: NearSt

NearSt, a new platform to order titles from local bookshops – and get them to customers within an hour – begins in London

At Ink@84, an independent bookshop in Highbury, north London, an order pinged in on Thursday morning for Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. The Pulitzer prize-winning bestseller was then to be delivered to a nearby customer within 60 minutes – by NearSt, a new platform that is offering one-hour delivery for books across London, as well as the facility to browse your local shops with your phone.

Almost 40 bookshops are now on NearSt’s newly-launched platform, which allows customers in London to enter their postcode and the name of the book they’re looking for on the site or app. They can then order the book for instant collection from a local store, or have it speedily delivered. Entering Joe Hill’s post-apocalyptic thriller The Fireman for my home address in Kilburn, I’m told I can either walk nine minutes to a local shop, Queen’s Park Books, where it will be reserved for me, or have it delivered within the hour.

The start-up is “absolutely” out to challenge Amazon, says co-founder Nick Brackenbury. “We think finding and buying something from a shop nearby should always be faster and easier than ordering it online. After all, there are hundreds of bookshops all over London, right on customers’ doorsteps. But today their inventory is invisible to shoppers’ smartphones, making an online retailer the easiest choice. With NearSt we’re changing that, by putting the incredible range and value of local shops within just a couple taps of someone’s smartphone.”

Delivery is handled by a range of scooter and bike services across London, says Brackenbury, enabling NearSt to keep its costs low. The platform takes 6% of the final sale price of the book, with no set-up or monthly fees for stores to join. Brackenbury says because the platform works with bookstores’ existing systems, they can start using NearSt “in less than 10 minutes”.

“The key is that shops don’t need to change what they’re doing, or start using some new technology, like an iPad at the till, or anything like that,” says Brackenbury. “We then show this inventory through our site to shoppers searching for their books nearby. Shoppers can then place an order in just a couple of taps, pay, and have their book ready for instant in-store collection or delivery within the hour.”

At Ink@84, Betsy Tobin calls it “dead easy: an automated phone call asks you to double-check stock is physically there, then press a button to acknowledge. A very streamlined process. My staff person has just drawn an interesting parallel with Pokémon Go, in that people enjoy using tech to track down a product but also like the physical/social process of going out to get it.”

“From our point of view the chief attraction was not so much to ‘take on Amazon’ as to drive new customers to us: we’re a new business, having opened only last December, and many people in our area still don’t know we’re here. Our customers already eschew Amazon in large part; you’d be surprised how many people do. But yes, if NearSt makes it easier for them to do so, then it is good for us, good for the industry and good for books more generally,” says Tobin.

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SOURCE: The Guardian