18 August, 2023

How to Start an Online Bookshop in the UK: Step-by-Step Guide

Curling up on the sofa with a decent book and a cup of tea. You can already feel this atmosphere through the text, can’t you? It has been a typical daily routine in the UK for many years now. What is different, though, is the way people do book shopping. The state-of-the-art technology, alongside coronavirus and other factors, has made the traditional stroll to the store obsolete. 

How to Start an Online Bookshop in the UK: Step-by-Step Guide

It makes sense why people want to switch to online shopping. It is cheaper, and you can always have your book delivered fast wherever you go. But, it’s not only readers who benefit from digitalisation. Online bookshop owners also found a great niche they can profit from while meeting the needs of the evolving market. 

If you aim to create an online bookshop, you should put aside all the strategies of an ordinary e-commerce shop. Those are non-applicable regarding book business since the segment involves unique selling approaches. We are just about to discuss tips for building a successful virtual business, so stay tuned.

Reasons to Start an Online Bookshop in the UK

There are numerous reasons why people open online bookshops or transfer their existing offline shops into digital space. Here are a few of them:

Widespread Digital Adoption

The charm of physical books will always hold a special place in the hearts of many, yet the convenience of digital reading is becoming increasingly irresistible. With smartphones, tablets, and e-readers becoming ubiquitous, readers are embracing the ease of accessing their favourite titles anytime, anywhere. 

Stable Industry

Time passes, but the demand for books will always stay. Online book retail poses a reliable industry to step into, as you needn’t fear an industry downturn. For example, during Covid-19, people were cooped up indoors, having nothing to do, and many of us found entertainment in reading, which is reflected in statistics — most people in the UK spent twice as much time reading their favourite books. Other than that, there are many avid readers, especially in the UK, who will never abandon the habit of reading. It is primarily about our literacy and development, so the trend for books is set to continue for many years ahead (if not forever).

Economic Viability

Continuing the previous point, traditional bookshops entail substantial overheads like rent and inventory management. Online bookshops, on the other hand, eliminate the need for physical shopfronts and allow you to operate with reduced operational costs. Social media platforms, email marketing, and search engine optimisation enable precise targeting, ensuring that your promotional efforts yield maximum impact with minimal expenditure. Besides, it solves the question of hiring employees, as you can run a bookselling business without any assistance. Thus, you can offer competitive pricing, attractive discounts, and a wider range of books to make your offers even more alluring for prospective buyers.

Expansive Audience Reach

The digital landscape erases geographical boundaries. Your online bookshop can attract customers from not only various regions of the UK but also from around the world. This expanded market reach opens doors to a diverse customer base.


Physical stores usually hold a maximum of two employees, who can’t serve all the customers at the same time. When the customer flow is on the up, you end up being torn between several shoppers. Also, nobody can be fully clued up on the whole assortment. Those are already huge disadvantages, and to cap it all, you might not guess a person’s preferences so well. Online stores can analyse all the books automatically and suggest personalised reads based on people’s recent views, search history, and prior purchases.

Round The Clock Accessibility

Your online bookshop never sleeps. Readers can browse, select, and purchase books at any time, accommodating diverse schedules and time zones. What does it mean to you? A higher income, of course, because you can expand the purchase opportunities and process more orders.

Adaptation to Trends

The literary world, like any other, is subject to trends and fads. With an online presence, you can quickly adapt to shifts in reading preferences and capitalise on emerging trends, staying ahead of the curve.

Fostering Community

Beyond being a mere transactional platform, your online bookshop can serve as a virtual literary community. Apart from selling decent books, you can enthral your clients with engaging content, author interviews, and discussion forums. No other physical store can create a similar space where readers congregate to share their passion for books with like-minded ones. Not only that, but they have more chances to find readers with similar tastes, given the large customer base.

Environmental Consciousness

The planet smiles when you choose digital books over their paper counterparts. Trees do a little happy dance, and so does your eco-conscious customer. The allure of reading without the guilt of contributing to paper waste resonates deeply with those who care about the environment.

What Do You Need to Start Selling Books Online?

How to open an online bookshop? Of course, you won’t get down to business right away. You need to estimate your chances and take preliminary considerations. Here are the essential steps to prepare your business for a great start:

Passion for Reading

Before you start an online bookshop, it is important to have a genuine passion for reading. There is no better way to succeed than through being the target audience of your company. You can’t start an online bookshop without knowing what’s currently on. It will otherwise turn into a loss-making business. The sales will eventually plunge because your book collections might not resonate with the popular trends, genres, and authors. 

The Right Niche

While there are countless books available, finding a niche for your online bookshop is nearly the first thing you should focus on. Targeting all genres simultaneously is illogical, as you will quickly blend with the rest of the stores out there. You need to strike people with authenticity to set your business apart. Consider focusing on a specific genre, like mystery, romance, science fiction, or self-help. Alternatively, you could specialise in rare and collectable books. A well-defined niche will attract a dedicated audience and filter out those who are not into you.

Good Business Plan

A well-thought-out business plan is the foundation of any successful venture. Outline your business goals, target audience, revenue projections, and marketing strategies. Include details about how you'll source books, manage inventory, and handle shipping. A comprehensive business plan will guide your decisions and attract potential investors if needed.

Target Audience

Understanding your target audience is essential for tailoring your offerings to their preferences. Are you targeting avid readers, students, parents, or book collectors? Consider factors like age, interests, and reading habits. This knowledge will help you curate a selection that appeals to your audience and offer personalised recommendations.

Budget Allocation

If your online bookshop business is only at the planning stage, you might not have a large capital to splurge on this and that. You need to carefully think through all the financially demanding areas like the marketing department, design and content creation, book sourcing, and business registration. Also, remember to put some money aside for extra expenditures.

Memorable Address 

In order to get noticed, you have to get your business address in the luxurious part of the UK. You may think it’s outside your price range, but with The Hoxton Mix, it's affordable for anyone. Contact us today to find a compelling virtual office for your store.

In the following paragraphs, we describe steps to opening an online bookshop that are vital for your further book business development.

8 Steps to Starting an Online Bookshop in the UK

Without further ado, let’s talk about how to start an online bookshop in the UK: 

Do Market Research

Before you start to sell books online, take the time to thoroughly research the market. Understand your target audience's preferences, reading habits, and purchasing behaviours. Identify the genres and types of books that are currently in demand. This information will help you tailor your book collection and marketing strategies to meet the needs of your potential customers.

Secure a Domain Name and Website

Your online presence is crucial to your bookshop's success. Choose a catchy and relevant domain name that reflects your bookshop's identity. Set up a user-friendly and visually appealing website that allows customers to easily browse and purchase books. Ensure that your website is responsive and optimised for mobile devices, as many customers will shop on their smartphones and tablets.

Register Your Business

To get your online bookshop up and running, first, you need to officially register your business and its name. Choose a suitable legal structure for your bookshop, whether it's a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or another option. Each has some pros and cons, so be attentive. For example, sole traders are personally responsible and deal with fewer records and taxes, but there's more financial risk compared to LLCs.

Starting an online bookshop might not have high costs or earnings at first. If you're not planning rapid growth, starting as a sole trader could be a good fit. 

After completing your store registration, you need to learn to deal with taxes. It implies reporting your income to HMRC. Those who work for themselves usually do a Self Assessment tax return. If you decide on a limited company, you'll pay corporation tax and also income or dividend tax and national insurance. If you expect to earn over £85,000 a year, you'll have to register for VAT. VAT-registered businesses need to follow Making Tax Digital (MTD), which makes the tax process digital and simpler. MTD will likely expand to cover most businesses, so keep this in mind.

Insurance might seem like an unnecessary investment, but it can save your situation. For fully digital businesses, public liability insurance might not be needed unless it covers business-related damages or injuries. But think about insuring your book stock or digital data because losing them could be a big financial hit.

Check out all the legal requirements on the official website to make sure you're on track.

Curate Your Book Collection

Your book selection will be the heart of your online bookshop. Carefully curate a diverse range of books that cater to various tastes and interests. Consider including bestsellers, classics, niche genres, and local authors to attract a wide customer base. Regularly update your collection to keep it fresh and appealing.

Integrate Secure Payment

Security is paramount when it comes to online transactions. Integrate a secure payment gateway that ensures the protection of your customers' financial information. Offer a variety of payment options to accommodate different preferences, including credit/debit cards, digital wallets, and other online payment methods.

Invest in Marketing Efforts

How to start an online bookshop and make it popular? To make your online bookshop known to potential customers, invest in strategic marketing efforts. Utilise social media platforms, email marketing, and content creation to engage with your audience and promote your book collection. Consider offering special promotions, discounts, and loyalty programs to attract and retain customers.

Work on Personalisation

One of the advantages of online businesses is the ability to personalise the shopping experience. Implement features that allow customers to create wishlists, receive personalised book recommendations, and track their order history. Tailoring the experience to individual preferences can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Commit to Improvement

The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and so should your online bookshop. Continuously gather feedback from your customers and analyse sales data to identify areas for improvement. Stay updated on book industry trends and technological advancements to ensure that your bookshop remains competitive and up-to-date.

How Much Does It Cost to Start an Online Bookshop?

The total amount needed to start an online book business can differ based on the bookshop model you select. Opting for dropshipping, for instance, might entail approximately $800. Opting for book printing could raise costs due to equipment expenses. Regardless of the approach, the upfront investment is notably lower than those for a physical store. Yet, factors like inventory, website expenses, marketing, and business address registration also play a role. 

While all those factors can significantly bump up the price, The Hoxton Mix is here to assist with the latter, providing top-tier services at the best prices. Contact us today and save on the business address registration!

Consider The Hoxton Mix as Your Trusted Partner

In the UK, you are spoilt for choice in terms of different virtual address providers. But we are here to reassure you that The Hoxton Mix is your best option. Our expertise in the field will show you a way to start an online bookshop which will generate sales right away. Think of how many potential customers can be attracted at the bustling London location! Not only that, but we also offer a great deal of services, such as virtual office phone handling, mail forwarding, and meeting rooms to make your business flow impeccably. What you need is to contact our team and get full-fledged assistance on your store registration. 


How can I launch a bookshop online?

Opening an online bookshop is relatively easy. Firstly, select a niche and define the TA. Once done, move to sourcing books from publishers or online marketplaces. Now let’s build a website: create an appealing design, do SEO optimisation, and write content. Also, don’t forget to choose a reliable provider for business registration. The Hoxton Mix has alluring deals for you to make the process of selling books online smooth and quick!

Do online bookshops turn a profit?

Indeed. Online bookshops can be profitable ventures if approached wisely, as much depends on your marketing strategies and customer service. You should primarily work on personalised book offerings because people are easily triggered by relevant information. If your suggestions coincide with their reading interests, your business is the odds-on favourite to succeed.

How much does it cost to open an online bookshop?

The price depends. Dropshipping, for example, will take you around $800. If you choose to print books, the price might go up due to the additional equipment costs. You also have to consider inventory, website costs, marketing, and business address registration. To your relief, The Hoxton Mix can help you with the last one, as we offer the best pricing for the highest value!

How do I run my online book business effectively?

Running the bookshop on your own is not an option, as you will quickly find yourself worn out. At some point, you will need a qualified expert who can efficiently manage the order flow and mail, answer your calls, and do a bunch of other stuff. If you don’t want to spend the whole fortune on them, you can partner with The Hoxton Mix. We will not only help you register your business in the most prestigious location but provide you with a range of services to bring you the most out of your store.

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