Booksellers Find Instant Response an Alternative for Electronic Ordering

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Last year, several major publishers, including Penguin and Simon & Schuster, announced plans to discontinue direct electronic order (DEO) dial-up systems in early 2007 due to ISBN-13 compliance issues. With publisher deadlines for the end of DEO fast approaching, a number of independent booksellers have found an alternative in Pubnet's Instant Response. Launched in November, Instant Response provides immediate acknowledgement for purchase orders placed with participating publishers and allows bookstores to place orders and receive backorder acknowledgements, invoices, and advance shipping notices through standardized electronic methods. Participating publishers currently include Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers, Penguin Group (USA), Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Pubnet General Manager Charles Halpin told BTW that the company was urging booksellers to sign up now rather than wait until publishers start shutting down the dial-up DEO systems. "Bookseller sign-ups are now increasing rapidly, and we want to avoid a bottleneck," he said. "Knowing that many of the larger publishers want to sunset their existing DEO systems, we designed Pubnet Instant Response to be a seamless substitute to minimize the hassle of switching ordering systems."

Pubnet integrates with most major POS systems, and Instant Response integrates Pubnet technology with PubEasy's user interface to access publishers' title-availability data instantly. PubEasy, which features electronic invoice requests and backorder cancellation requests, is an Internet-based service used to facilitate business among booksellers, publishers, distributors, and wholesalers.

Halpin noted that 50 leading bookstores are already up and running with Pubnet Instant Response and 100 more are being processed now. In addition to Instant Response ordering, he added, participating booksellers will also have free access to PubEasy's real-time price and availability checking and order/backorder status checking from all the major trade publishers.

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California, has been using the Pubnet Instant Response program with their Computac/Square One POS system since December. Marie duVaure, head book buyer, reported, "There are some very good aspects to it; confirmation comes back really quickly, but we have run into a few problems concerning confirmation codes. It's not a minor problem, and we would like to have those glitches ironed out as soon as possible." Once the bugs are fixed she said, "I think it will be a good system; it definitely expedites the ordering process."

At Blue Willow in Houston, Texas, Valerie Koehler, who's been using Pubnet Instant Response with her DOS-based IBID POS system, said that it was "coming along, but not perfect." Koehler explained that previously Blue Willow received immediate confirmation for direct orders. Now using the Instant Response program, confirmations go to her e-mail rather than directly to the POS system. Pubnet, which she described as "very responsive to all questions," was working on a solution, she said.

Buyer Paul Yamazaki at City Lights in San Francisco was pleased with Instant Response, which he described as "working fairly smoothly" with Wordstock. He had the same criticism about the program as Blue Willow: Instant Response uses two steps for automatic confirmation, as opposed to the former EDI system, which used one. Still, Yamazaki called it a "minor inconvenience."

To participate, retailers will need to have a SAN as well as memberships in both Pubnet and PubEasy, and accounts need to be validated with each publisher. Through January 31, 2007, retailers can sign up for Pubnet's one-time membership fee at a discounted rate of $125. If booksellers already have a Pubnet membership, there is no additional fee for the Instant Response program.

If a bookseller already has a SAN, the discounted rate is $50. For more information or to request registration forms, visit www.pubnet.org or contact Bruce Miller, U.S. sales executive for Pubnet/PubEasy, at (908) 219-0053 or bruce.miller@bowker.com. For booksellers who already have a Pubnet and PubEasy account, there is no additional fee, but booksellers should call Pubnet at 1-800-PUBNET1 to validate that their PubEasy account SAN is correct. --Karen Schechner