Czech book resale service aims to be “first choice for Europeans”

Czechia’s Knihobot, which started out in a small second-hand book shop, has become a major name in the country’s resale economy. The service allows people to get rid of their old books for cash – and has made inroads into other markets in Europe.

Barbora Votavová | Photo: LinkedIn of Barbora Votavová

Knihobot started up just five years ago at a used bookshop and is now Czechia’s largest seller of books, helping ordinary people put unwanted publications back into circulation, for cash.

Sellers keep 60 percent of the price, minus CZK 29, with the money going into their own Knihobot account.

While most of its business is online, brand manager Barbora Votavová says the domestic resale economy giant is slowly returning to brick-and-mortar.

“We have 600,000 books now in this building and it would be very hard to have a similar offer in different locations, so it would be available to people.

Photo: Knihobot

"Actually our CEO started offline in a small second-hand store. But now it’s online and we are coming back to retail actually. We have the first retail space at Strossmayerovo náměstí, in Prague 7. It’s a second-hand bookstore, a nicely curated bookstore.

"And we are also reaching out to people offline on the suppliers side. People bring books to us. We cooperate with [discount chain] Levné knihy, for example; you can bring stuff to their physical stores and they ship it to us.”

Photo: Augustin Hourlier,  Radio Prague International

One way Knihobot generates interest is to have curated categories on its website. At present these include romance, LGBTQ+ themes – and booze.

“For February you have St. Valentine’s, so you have some romance books. But we wanted to show there isn’t just, like, the hetro-normative kind of love maybe, so that’s why LGBTQ+.

"And for Dry February, alcohol is a big part of literature and sometimes it shows the dark side of using too much of it, so that was also a choice for February.

"And we try to build it like this throughout the year, so people always have something interesting. And maybe they could find a book that they wouldn’t think of reading, just thanks to the category.”

Photo: Augustin Hourlier,  Radio Prague International

Since its beginnings Knihobot has spread to other states, including Slovakia, Austria and Germany, where it is called Bookbot. And its international ambitions are even greater, says brand manager Barbora Votavová.

“We would like to be the first choice for Europeans as a place to buy and sell books. Because we believe that most books can be bought second-hand, for ecological reasons and for wider sustainability, so even in terms of accessibility.

"And for Germany specifically we are now reaching 10 percent of the books sold in Germany, and we hope to grow that number. We have competition in Germany – it’s a more advanced and developed market.

"But we have plans, because we know that we have some key benefits that different companies don’t have.”

Authors: Augustin Hourlier , Ian Willoughby
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