Books Delivered in an Hour, in London?

CZUvD33XEAAEZInThe Guardian has the scoop on a London-based startup which wants to challenge Amazon by delivering books in an hour or less.

At [email protected], 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.

It used to be the only thing you could get delivered within an hour was food. Now, thanks to Amazon, we have a new mini tech bubble where you can even find a startup which will endeavor to deliver a book in an hour.

But does anyone need a book in an hour? Is this service sustainable?

That remains to be seen. Books aren’t a large market, and they’re sold on thin margins, which means that participating bookstores (which usually operate on shoestrings as it is) are going to be squeezed even further.

But in spite of the financial issues bookstores love the idea, that’s for sure. At [email protected], 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,” Tobin told The Guardian.

But are consumers going to go for this when they can just as easily order the book off of Amazon, or perhaps go down to the store and get the book themselves.

I, for one, have trouble conceiving of a need for a book in such a short time frame where an ebook wouldn’t serve better than a paper book.

What do you think?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. puzzled15 July, 2016

    “It used to be the only thing you could get delivered within an hour was food.”

    Or sex…

    1. Nate Hoffelder15 July, 2016


  2. tarwin15 July, 2016

    Don’t forget that many books aren’t available in e-book format(s). Also, is here much of a premium for the delivery?

    On the other hand if I were in the area and were to use the service, I can imagine it being more for convenience than urgency (though I can imagine a scenario or two where I might need a book “urgently”). If it is diverted I’m an hour it is easy to schedule. Where I am couriers can’t just leave stuff on a stoop/front for (which is why ask my packages are delivered to my grandmother’s place as she’s always there). Having to worry about where I’ll be on a given day and whether the courier will swing by in the morning, midday or afternoon… It’s a hassle. I mean, couldn’t the same thing be said about having medication delivered?
    Now as you pointed out, the real issue is cost/profit margins for everyone involved and sustainability.

  3. […] isn’t exactly literary. Then I found my chance, over on The Digital Reader, in a post about a new startup that promises to deliver books to their customers within the span of one hour, while working with the local bookshops. It’s an interesting concept, which has been compared […]


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