The testing process is underway for Batch for Books, a new electronic invoicing system created for booksellers and publishers in the U.S. The software-assisted service helps initiate payments between vendors and bookstore retailers at no cost to bookstores.
“Batch acts as a conduit for financial information between bookstores and their suppliers,” said Fraser Tanner, the CEO of Batch for Books, who is working in tandem with Batch Administration Manager Eileen Kelly to roll out the system in the U.S. “Retailers will only need one way of connecting to see all of the data from their suppliers that are on the Batch system.”
The American Booksellers Association has long been working to bring Batch for Books, which is owned and managed by Batch U.K., to U.S. booksellers. Batch was conceived and is wholly owned by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland.
“Since first being introduced to Batch many years ago, we have been convinced that it could be an incredibly important tool to help indie booksellers here in the U.S. operate much more efficiently,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “As the data from the annual ABACUS survey of bookstore operations makes clear, a key to increasing store profits lies in lowering operational costs. The important gains that Batch can provide regarding invoicing and payment will be of enormous benefit to indie booksellers as well as to our publishing colleagues. We’ve worked hard with our friends at the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland to bring this service to the U.S., and we are very pleased that Batch for Books is progressing towards a full launch.”
Inside the Batch system, booksellers can view all vendor transactions, which are searchable by vendor name, due dates, transaction numbers, and more; period summaries, which include open and authorized transactions by vendor as well as the total dollar amount owed; and a range of reports, including outstanding balances, payment statuses, and more. Invoices detail the title of each book ordered as well as ISBN, unit cost, list price, discount, and net value, and payments can be authorized with one click. All communications are conducted via secure FTP.
While in the U.K., where the Batch system has been in place since 2000, a number of options are offered — including returns, accounting, and POS integration — the system indie booksellers will be using in America is being created specifically for U.S. retailers and will start out with only the invoice payment option.
In addition, the American version of Batch will start purely as a domestic service between U.S. publishers and U.S. bookstores, but plans are in the works to grow the boundaries of the service as it becomes more established.
“Batch is an indispensable tool for the book trade, not just for the bookstores in the U.K., but also with bookstores in 78 different countries around the world,” said Tanner, including in countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Australia.
A number of U.S. publishers are in the process of signing on to work with Batch. The service is free for booksellers to use; funding to support the system comes from participating vendors. “The vendors are also going to see substantial benefits in efficiencies in dealing with their accounts,” said Tanner. “With the information that comes back with an electronic payment is an electronic file the vendors can allocate directly to accounts receivable.”
The goal is to have as many publishers as possible participating in the Batch system. Tanner encouraged booksellers to talk with their publisher representatives about signing on.
A soft launch of Batch for Books with the ABA Board of Directors’ stores is underway; Kelly will continue to bring booksellers on board in phases as the year continues. Later this summer, Batch will invite booksellers to register to get into the queue (watch BTW for the announcement), and a larger kickoff is planned to coincide with Winter Institute 2020. All booksellers will be able to use the system by next year.
For vendors that sign up, Batch will provide on-demand training, and booksellers will receive how-to guides and FAQs. Batch also plans to hire a handful of staff to attend to the service in the U.S., starting with a customer service representative. For now, booksellers or publishers who want to contact Batch can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our motto is ‘No paper but the books,’” said Tanner. “That is our goal.”