Week 6/21 – week ending 5 February

New ‘dating app’ for books

James Padolsey, founder of book recommendation service A Book Like Foo, has launched Love Your Shelf (loveyourshelf.net), a book “dating app”.

Padolsey said: “Bookshelves have become a staple feature of lockdown, both in the backdrop of our video calls and as a place of comfort and joy when the world seems too much for us. I made Love Your Shelf in response to seeing this.

“I wanted to make it easier for people to find those undiscovered literary joys and revive their bookshelves with escapes, romances, insights and thrillers. And I hope, in some small way, this makes this storm easier to ride out.

BA to release summer catalogue

The Booksellers Association (BA) is to launch a Summer Books catalogue, a complement to its Christmas Books catalogue and aimed particularly at independent booksellers. It is a joint venture with Nielsen and Gardners.

Indie booksellers will select the featured titles. There will be an introduction by Nikesh Shukla, whose memoir Brown Baby will be out this week from Bluebird. National Book Tokens will subsidise door-to-door drops. Booksellers may choose to have their Bookshop.org QR codes included on the back cover.

Emma Bradshaw, BA head of campaigns, said: “It continues to be a challenging time for the industry, and we hope that this resource will help booksellers to navigate the shifting retail landscape this summer. With bookshops hopefully open and trading, and customers seeking holiday reading, Summer Books will deliver the best of summer titles to bookshop customers.”

Matthew Mansfield, head of business development at Nielsen, said: “On the back of a record-breaking year for the Christmas Catalogue, with 163 indie booksellers participating, we feel it is an ideal time to release a new marketing tool for independent bookshops and publishers. In these testing times, we believe this will drive sales both physical and online, and are confident this will help contribute towards a thriving summer for the book market.”

The deadline for orders is 1 April, and the catalogue will be released in mid-May. Order forms and further information from sharon.benton@booksellers.org.uk. 

Reading Agency unveils anti-loneliness campaign

The Reading Agency is ‘proud to announce Read, Talk, Share, an initiative to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the Covid-19 pandemic this winter.’

Backed by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Read, Talk, Share will ‘expand The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes, with the charity’s work to tackle loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing playing an important part in the nation’s Covid recovery.

‘The two initiatives demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals, and the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The DCMS funding presents an unprecedented level of investment in library services to tackle loneliness and support mental health, and The Reading Agency will work closely with local libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing.’

Karen Napier (pictured), ceo of The Reading Agency, said: “Tackling loneliness and supporting mental health and wellbeing across the country has always been a priority for The Reading Agency. The ongoing Covid-19 crisis’ impact on the country’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing cannot be underestimated, and our Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes are perfectly placed to assist the nation in recovery. Our mission remains to help people tackle life’s challenges through the proven power of reading, and to bring people together, ease our burdens, and foster wellbeing and understanding. We are immensely grateful to DCMS for their support – this feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society.”

According to a statement from The Reading Agency: ‘Reading Well supports people in their journey towards better mental health by making helpful books recommended by health experts easily accessible to readers of all ages. The Reading Agency is working closely with every library service across England to provide unprecedented access to the carefully designed reading lists: Reading Well for mental health; Reading Well for young people; and Reading Well for children. Topics explored include mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy; coping with grief, anxiety, depression, and stress; understanding bullies, body dysmorphia, ADHD, autism, and OCD; and much more. Books from each list will be available for a mixture of both click-and-collect and e-lending at each English library authority later this month.

‘- 90% of Reading Well users said they found their book helpful for understanding and managing their conditions.
– 89% of responding health practitioners agreed that it helped to support people outside of consultation time.

‘Reading Friends brings people together to read, share stories, meet new friends, and have fun, tackling the big life-challenge of social isolation. Through the funding grant from DCMS, The Reading Agency will be able to provide funding, training and resources for 75 library authorities in England to deliver Reading Friends to a broad range of audiences, using socially distanced and telephone/video call befriending models. The programme is delivered by volunteers and co-produced with its participants to ensure it meets each person’s needs and matches their interests, in groups and one-to-one sessions.

‘- After taking part, 83% of participants and 95% of volunteers reported feeling more connected to other people.
– An evaluation of a pilot telephone reading befriending service run in Staffordshire during the first lockdown generated similar findings; most participant respondents agreed/strongly agreed that the project had helped them to feel more connected to other people.’

Baroness Barran, Minister for Loneliness, said: “The start of this year continues to be as difficult as the last for the whole nation, with many people not being able to see the people who mean the most to them. Tackling loneliness remains a priority for the government and I’m thrilled to see how organisations, like The Reading Agency, have adapted to this new world we’re living in, doing incredible work in their local communities to ensure no one feels isolated.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Libraries, said: “Libraries are often the heart and soul of local communities and a real lifeline to so many people who may feel lonely or isolated. With another tough few months ahead of us, I am thrilled that the funding we have allocated will help The Reading Agency continue to deliver its invaluable work – with a particular focus on ensuring that people of all ages are prioritising their mental health.”

Jeff Bezos steps down at Amazon

The changed role for Bezos was announced as part of Amazon’s fourth quarter statement, which showed sales at the business leaping 38% in 2020 to $386bn, or well over a billion dollars a day.

Amazon is also announcing today that Jeff Bezos (pictured) will move to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of 2021 and Andy Jassy will become chief executive officer at that time.  Jassy, 52, joined Amazon in 1997 straight from Harvard Business School and set up its Amazon Web Services division, which has gone on to be an immensely profitable part of the retailer’s empire. Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as a bookseller, and it has now become one of the largest businesses on the planet, amassing Bezos an estimated fortune of $185bn.

Bezos said: “Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

In the fourth quarter of 2020 net sales increased 44% to $125.6 billion, compared with $87.4 billion in fourth quarter of 2019. Excluding the $1.7 billion favourable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 42% compared to 2019. Operating income increased to $6.9 billion in the fourth quarter, compared to $3.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

For the full year, operating income increased to $22.9 billion, compared with operating income of $14.5 billion in 2019 and net income increased to $21.3 billion, or $41.83 per diluted share, compared with net income of $11.6 billion, or $23.01 per diluted share, in 2019.

Sales in Amazons’ international division, which includes the UK, grew to $104bn, up from $75bn in 2019; in the fourth quater the growth in sales was more pronounced, up from $24bn to $37bn.

Amazon also released bullish forecast for the first quarter of 2021: ‘Net sales are expected to be between $100.0 billion and $106.0 billion, or to grow between 33% and 40% compared with first quarter 2020… operating income is expected to be between $3.0 billion and $6.5 billion, compared with $4.0 billion in first quarter 2020.’