Happy ending for online bookseller

Steve Dinneen
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THE Book Depository founder Andrew Crawford says he is looking forward to working with Amazon – and he knows what he is talking about; he used to work there.

The 40-year-old Irish entrepreneur was one of the key people behind Amazon’s push into the UK in the late 1990s.

His first experience in book retailing came after joining the start-up team of Bookpages.co.uk in 1996. A year later he was on the payroll at Amazon, as the retail giant snapped the firm up in its quest to take control of the UK online retail market.

After three years watching Amazon go from strength to strength, smashing past its weaker rivals, Crawford decided to attempt the seemingly impossible: go head to head with it.

He started the Book Depository with just £10,000 of savings – but a wealth of information about running a world-beating retailer.

Crawford said at the time his philosophy was to sell “a little of a lot” rather than “a lot of a little”, bucking the trend for retailers to take few risks by selling hit titles in bulk.

Staying true to this idea, Crawford later founded of Dodo Press, which now operates as a division of The Book Depository. Dodo is responsible for reissuing old and rare out of print books, which some analysts speculate could be the real attraction for Amazon.

But perhaps his shrewdest decision was to offer customers free worldwide postage on their orders, which persuaded millions to choose the site over its rivals.

Against the odds, The Book Depository carved a valuable place in the market, becoming one of the top online retailers in the UK.