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Social Purpose Annual Report


2020

Our mission is to get more people reading while supporting local, independent bookstores.


We believe that reading, in any format, is essential. We believe books have the power to change lives. We believe that community-based bookstores—and their booksellers—play a critical role as trusted curators of the content we consume. And we believe in harnessing the power of technology to meet the needs of our customers and our bookstore partners.

As we look to the future as a Social Purpose Corporation, we commit to serving readers and independent bookstores. We will continue to support bookstores by splitting profits and utilizing technology to foster real-world connections within the Libro.fm listening and bookselling communities.

What is a Social Purpose Corporation?

A Social Purpose Corporation (SPC) employs a hybrid approach to growth and profit, incorporating elements of traditional for-profit business and nonprofit organization. An SPC is able to pursue both social and financial goals in the for-profit context, even if those social goals may at times conflict with the corporation’s financial interest or shareholders’ financial interests.

@phyliciarashad

phyliciarashad

Dog Eared Books

Dog Eared Books

@shelfbyshelf

shelfbyshelf

Pages: A Bookstore

Pages: A Bookstore

How we live our mission:

Curation, community, and convenience

Parnassus Books, TN

Curation

We offer more than just algorithms.

Book-lovers to our core, we aim to deliver the best online experience for browsing audiobooks, and partner with more than 8,000 booksellers to curate recommendations and playlists for our customers. These are real people, not artificial intelligence, who work hard to get more books into the hands (or ears!) of readers.

We utilize our platform to highlight a diverse and inclusive selection of audiobooks for everyone. Each month, we curate lists of free audiobooks for educators, librarians, and booksellers. When curating these lists, we include at least 50% BIPOC authors in order to help distribute these books to classroom, library, and community bookshelves.

Natasha

“I love the diverse list of books I’ve been able to listen to since I started using Libro.fm.”


Natasha / BookPeople

Books & Books, FL

Community

Each bookstore, each bookseller, and each customer is part of our community, and we’re part of theirs.

From booksellers at Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska to customers of AkooBooks in Legon, Ghana, our digital platform brings us all together. We started with just a handful of partner bookstores in 2014, and by 2020 we have grown to more than 1,300 and counting.

Though we may be digital, we approach community-building like an independent, brick-and-mortar bookstore. We humanize every interaction, whether it’s through social media posts, direct messages, email, or customer support. On our blog, we champion individual booksellers, authors, narrators, and translators. By sharing these stories with the Libro.fm community, we foster space for conversations between booksellers, creators, and readers.

Jarett

“[Libro supports] indie bookstores and small business communities. Several large, online companies are working hard to smash small businesses as best they can. Libro.fm is another ally in the fight to preserve locally owned businesses run by local people. It’s a wonderful audiobook alternative I can offer my customers, which I like.”


Annie / The Neverending Bookshop

Convenience

Bookstores specialize in handselling books to customers.

But the challenges of 2020 made it increasingly necessary that booksellers also become well versed in technology for marketing and selling books online. Libro.fm provides booksellers with a digital platform to sell audiobooks free of charge. We also offer free marketing materials and audiobook listening copies for booksellers, and our inbox is always open to provide any support needed. We go to great lengths to make our platforms—including our free iOS and Android apps—user-friendly for our customers and our bookstore partners.

Listening to audiobooks is just as impactful as reading print books, and scientific research backs this belief. Audiobooks provide flexible listening and enable readers to fit more books into their lives. Beyond convenience, audiobooks make reading accessible for anyone who is not able to read print or ebooks. We strive to make Libro.fm easy to use no matter the reason customers turn to us. Listening is reading.

Khamani

“The Libro.fm platform is so easy to use, as both a bookseller and a user.”


Khamani / The Key Bookstore

2020 at a glance

  • January

    Launched Bookstore Link, a search platform linking directly to local bookstores’ websites for purchasing print books 

  • March

    Raised $89,131 for 724 bookstores that had been affected by COVID-19 

  • April

    Hired 11 unemployed or underemployed booksellers to work at Libro.fm amid COVID-19 store closures 

  • May

    Donated $28,731 to Binc through #SocksforBinc, a partnership with artists creating custom, literary-themed socks 

  • June

    Delivered $67,462 to Black-owned bookstores in celebration of Juneteenth 

  • July

    Gave 5,000+ anti-racism audiobooks to customers for sharing with friends and family in order to start important conversations 

  • August

    Became a Social Purpose Corporation

    Celebrated Independent Bookstore Day with customers submitting videos about what bookstores mean to them 

  • November

    Launched shoplocalbookstores.com as a resource for those looking to support local bookstores

    Garnered $171,585.51 in revenue at local bookstores with our Thanks for Giving offer 

  • December

    Raised money for Binc through a merchandise partnership with award-winning author and illustrator Jon Klassen

    Netted a total of $63,720 from sales of audiobook gift memberships for bookstores during the holiday season 

Returning to work after the winter holidays in early January 2020, none of us could have foreseen the shape the year would take. As a small but nimble team, we were able to quickly pivot to support independent bookstores in response to the tumultuous events of 2020.

Renée

“Libro.fm is forever creating new ways to support independent bookstores.”


Renée / @book_girl_magic

McNally Jackson / NY

#ShopBookstoresNow

As the COVID-19 crisis descended upon the world, we realized that independent bookstores needed our help—fast. In March, we launched a two-week campaign that immediately delivered 100% of sales to bookstores who sold a one-month membership or acquired new Libro.fm members.

We set a goal of $50,000, but passed it in ten days. Building on this momentum, we also asked publishers to forgo their revenue for a select list of audiobooks—to send bookstores 100% of those sales. In the end, we raised $89,131 for 724 bookstores.

Bringing on more booksellers

By April, many bookstores had to reduce employees hours, if not furlough or lay them off entirely. We kept hearing about booksellers who suddenly had no job and no income. Taking quick action, we created 11 temporary roles that booksellers could immediately fill—everything from customer support to content creation.

Book Industry Charitable Organization

Binc is the first and only nonprofit dedicated to helping bookstores and booksellers.

As the COVID-19 crisis surged, so did their number of beneficiaries. We thought of a creative way to encourage revenue for Binc: socks. Thanks to our indie bookseller partners, we knew that besides books, socks are one of the bestselling products at bookstores. We teamed up with a handful of artists and authors to create a limited-edition line of literary socks, then sent 100% of the proceeds to Binc. Through our promotion, we sold 3,858 pairs of socks, resulting in $28,731 for Binc.

Riding this success, we partnered with Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator Jon Klassen to create exclusive products to benefit Binc. We launched a line of posters, pillows, stickers, totes, T-shirts, and mugs in November, and by the end of 2020 raised $4,335 for Binc.

Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Photo of Binc socks
Pam

“Wow! We can’t thank you enough for your extraordinary support! You made it possible to support a record number of booksellers! Our best to all of you! P.S. We love the socks!


Pam / Binc

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, thousands of people took to the streets in anguish to make their voices heard. Independent bookstores and their booksellers across the country stood by them. We committed to doing the work of anti-racism and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion ourselves, too.


Juneteenth

In honor of Juneteenth, which marks the anniversary of the last day enslaved people received the news of emancipation, we directed 100% of sales to Black-owned bookstores. We raised $67,462, which we shared equitably between 55 stores. We also created a directory of Black-owned bookstores, which we continued to update and share.

BIPOC-owned bookstores

To further encourage sales at BIPOC-owned bookstores, we created directories of Latinx-owned and Indigenous-owned bookstores as companions to our list of Black-owned bookstores. We amplified these bookstores throughout the year, and plan to keep updating and creating new directories to highlight diversity in the bookselling world.

Igniting conversations

In July, we gave over $75,000 worth of antiracist audiobooks to our customers to share with their friends and family. In sharing these 5,000+ free audiobooks, we hoped to ignite conversations around racial justice in our community.

Representation matters


Eager to do our part to encourage inclusion and equity, we took a look at the influencers we work with. We began reaching out to over 500 BIPOC influencers to partner with us and join our Advanced Listening Copy (ALC) program to access, review, and promote #ownvoices books.

Book curation has always been one of our greatest strengths.

As more people sought out books on racial injustice—books that were often double-backordered in print—we, and many of our BIPOC-owned bookstore partners, curated playlists on the topics of race and injustice. A digital audiobook can never go out of print or on backorder, so we were able to quickly get these books to eager customers. This eased the burden on independent bookstores, especially BIPOC-owned bookstores, many of whom had massive increases in sales from customers looking to support them.

We also included at least 50% BIPOC authors in our free ALC lists each month for educators, librarians, and influencers and created extensive lists of audiobooks by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous authors to feature on our website. We continue to add to our list of new and upcoming BIPOC-authored audiobooks, and encourage pre-orders of books by BIPOC authors. Pre-orders help boost a book’s initial success and set a precedent for publishers supporting future works by the same or similar authors. On our blog, we prioritized BIPOC author interviews to foster a wide range of perspectives on writing and publishing.

Heather

“I love how Libro.fm engages in real community issues. I know when I buy audiobooks with Libro.fm that I’m also supporting a company that talks about anti-racism and uplifts Black- and Latinx-owned stores.”


Heather / Third House

Semicolon Bookstore

Source

Paulina Springs Books

Paulina Springs Books

@bibliophagesisters

bibliophagesisters

@bookapotamus

bookapotamus

Corporate partnerships


The upheavals of 2020 also triggered the need for corporate responsibility and employee education to foster widespread change. We partnered with companies including HubSpot, Mailchimp, LinkedIn, and Microsoft to offer audiobooks in bulk, notably books about racism and anti-racism. These companies are also able to choose an independent bookstore to receive a share of these sales, highlighting the importance of supporting community businesses.

Hubspot Logo

“Partnering with Libro.fm has been a seamless customer experience. At HubSpot, we’re passionate about helping our employees learn and grow, and Libro.fm has empowered us to give back to independent and Black-owned bookstores as part of that commitment.”


Tina Do & Olivia Reardon / HubSpot

Independent Bookstore Day

In typical years, Independent Bookstore Day lands on the last Saturday in April. But 2020 wasn’t a typical year.

Independent Bookstore Day’s organizers made the decision to shift this year’s celebration to August 28th, hopeful that by then bookstores would be open to the public. By August, as we all remember, this still wasn’t possible in many places. In advance of the day, we asked customers to create short videos about what they love about their local bookstores. After receiving more than 100 submissions, we created a video for bookstores to share online, where most celebrations took place. We encouraged sales on Independent Bookstore Day by offering free audiobooks with the purchase of select print books from independent bookstores.

Vanessa

“Independent Bookstore Day is usually such a special day... Knowing that I can support [my local bookstores] by buying audiobooks through Libro.fm... makes it a little bit easier.”


Vanessa / Customer of Cafe con Libros

Holidays

In any given year, the holidays are a critical time for small businesses, the success of which can often determine the success of their entire year. This was especially so in 2020. We shouted a simple message on our website, email, and social media channels: Shop Local Bookstores. In preparation, we launched the website shoplocalbookstores.com on Amazon’s Prime Day, which included links to bookstorelink.com and bookstores directories.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we offered customers a free bestselling audiobook who provided proof of spending at least $15 USD (or local equivalent) at any independent bookstore in the world. At the end of the offer period, we rewarded 3,135 customers for spending a total of $171,585.51 at their local bookstores.

Additionally, to help drive revenue for bookstores, for each 12-month audiobook gift membership sold between October 1st and December 30th, bookstore partners received $90 or 50% of the purchase price. In total, Libro.fm partner bookstores earned $63,720 from audiobook gift memberships sales in Q4.

“Many of our customers were very excited about your generous support. We hope many send their receipts in! Thank you!”

Run for Cover Bookstore

Top 10 of 2020

When we get down to it, one of our favorite things we did in 2020 was simply helping booksellers sell their favorite—and our favorite!—audiobooks. These were our bestsellers of the year, providing a snapshot of the authors we featured, the books that held customers’ interests, and the audiobooks that were just plain good.

Thanks to the loyalty of book-lovers all over the world, from 2019 to 2020, we...


  • Had a 213% increase in audiobook listening
  • Saw a 202% increase in new monthly members
  • Upped our number of bookstore partners by 48%
  • Increased the amount paid to local bookstores by 398%

The Brewster Book Store

The Brewster Book Store

Brave and Kind Books

Brave and Kind Books

@readingthroughspeech

readingthroughspeech

Tattered Cover Book Store

Tattered Cover Book Store

Looking ahead


In order to carry out our mission, we plan to broaden our geographic reach in the world in order to serve even more book-lovers and their local bookstores.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it’s hard to predict the future. And yet, some lessons remain clear: as we grow, we must continue to be nimble in order to help bookstores respond to change; we must put in the work for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and we must continue to encourage voracious reading by our customers. We’re up for the challenge that a new year presents, and are committed to serving our bookstore and customer communities in 2021 and beyond.

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Celebrate Pride Month with Libro.fm! Learn more