Above the Treeline to Test New Online, Interactive Catalog Product

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Above the Treeline announced today that on November 1 it would begin field-testing Edelweiss, a new online, interactive catalog product. The test will include publishers and booksellers and will last for six months, at which time the company plans to release the next version of the application for wider rollout. Publishers participating in the test are Chronicle Books, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Penguin Group (USA), Random House, Simon & Schuster, Thomas Nelson, and Tyndale House Publishers. Above the Treeline said that participating retailers would be identified over the next two months. Edelweiss is endorsed by the American Booksellers Association.

The online product, which was developed with input from ABA, independent retailers, and publishers, provides a revolutionary new way for buyers and sales reps to review and order new titles.

A statement from Above the Treeline noted: "The Edelweiss product uniquely addresses the needs of publishers to improve the breadth of information available on new titles, to reduce the expense and environmental impact of printing and mailing thousands of catalogs each season and to improve sales force effectiveness. In addition, Edelweiss addresses the needs of retailers to manage their catalogs easily in a single online library, to view dynamic, enriched content about new titles, and to efficiently integrate orders and bibliographic information back into their point-of-sale systems."

"Edelweiss is a natural offshoot of what we do -- which is to provide collaborative tools to help improve efficiency in the publishing industry," said Above the Treeline CEO John Rubin. "The prototype we developed over the last few months generated tremendously positive responses from both large and small publishers and retailers. Instead of just porting catalogs designed to be viewed as hard copies online, we've used the opportunity to really redefine the new title buying experience in an optimal way for both buyers and sales reps."

ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz said, "Once again, Above the Treeline has anticipated the future and developed very usable, straightforward technology that incorporates the needs of independent booksellers. The development of interactive catalogs offers both publishers and booksellers new efficiencies and flexibilities, and Edelweiss allows every bookseller, regardless of size, the ability to participate."

The vice president of Thomas Nelson's Design and Multimedia Group, Gabe Wicks, added: "We're truly excited about being part of what we hope turns into a paradigmatic shift for our industry. Paper catalogs tend to be outdated the second they're off the press, yet we've come to expect that weakness as simply a 'given' in the book world. With the advent of Edelweiss, we've lost that excuse completely. It's time for our catalogs to be the first source for the latest product information."

Plans call for Edelweiss to be a freestanding online module, available at no charge to book buyers, regardless of their current Above the Treeline affiliation, and to other end users of catalogs such as publicists, bloggers, agents, etc.

Edelweiss' features include the ability for sales reps to electronically 'mark-up' a catalog with retailer-specific suggestions, comments, and custom tags to highlight unique attributes of individual titles. Reps can either communicate the information to bookstores through the Edelweiss system or create printable PDF versions of the catalog; choosing which information elements they'd like to include in the PDF. The ability for buyers and reps to create printable versions of the catalog, if desired, is a key component of the system.

Above the Treeline also noted that buyers will be able to manage their catalogs in an online library and filter catalog views by category, custom tags, pub dates, etc. Additionally, users can customize the elements they'd like to see about titles in a manner similar to a My Yahoo or iGoogle home page -- where widgets such as "Illustrations," "Publicity/Marketing Info," or "Notes From Reps" can be placed on the page according to user preference or hidden altogether.

In addition, changes to catalogs such as drop-in titles and changes to titles such as price or jacket cover changes can all be viewed by buyers and reps in a central area or set up as RSS feeds to streamline what is currently a laborious notification process for publishers and booksellers. Retailers that are already using Above the Treeline's business intelligence service will have the additional benefit of being able to access within the application the deep history of titles related to a new title. One of the core functionalities will be the ability for publishers to link comparable titles to a new title listing, and for reps and booksellers alike to contribute to the group of comp titles.

"In the field test period, we're going to put the application through the fire to make sure that it is truly a better alternative to hard copy catalogs for all users," Rubin stated. "We know that in order to change a long-standing process in any industry, the solution has to be of the highest quality and very usable. The publishers that are participating in the field test have shown a deep commitment to developing a solution that works not only for themselves but for the retail community as well."

"We are excited to be working with Above the Treeline on this new interactive catalog," said Kathy Smith, senior vice president, sales administration at HarperCollins. "This product compliments our own digital catalog initiative while addressing some of the specific concerns voiced by members of the American Bookselling Association. It's encouraging to see the different ways publishers and booksellers are taking advantage of new technology so that we can all spend more of our valuable time selling the books we love."

Rubin will present Edelweiss to booksellers at the ABA's upcoming Winter Institute in Salt Lake City on Friday, January 30, at 10:15 a.m.