BookSense.com On the Move...

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In this first On the Move of the New Year, BookSense.com presents a report on website sales during the holiday season, improvements to inventory upload features, ISBN-13 compatibility, digital content, a new content management system, and more.

Holiday Sales

BookSense.com announced that participants saw a double-digit increase in orders placed during the 2006 holiday selling season and that aggregate sales are up once again.

Inventory Upload

For the past several years, BookSense.com participants have had the ability to upload on-hand quantity and price information for items in the BookSense.com database. For stores uploading this data, BookSense.com has now added the ability to also upload store section. (Price and store section are optional data fields.)

This means, for a book like Water for Elephants, users will see a designation that says "On Our Shelves Now, 3 copies (Fiction Section)." This is particularly valuable for stores that use the BookSense.com website as an in-store kiosk. Customers using a store kiosk that shows stock information and store location will be much more likely to find and purchase a book.

In addition to the inclusion of location information, the inventory upload files are now fully compatible with ISBN-13. This means booksellers can have both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs in the files, in any order or configuration, and the upload will work.

Inventory uploads are an optional feature, costing an additional $20/month. For more information, contact staff@booksense.com.

ISBN-13

BookSense.com templated sites are fully compatible with ISBN-13 and now seamlessly handle both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs. BookSense.com anticipates that work to bring self-authored sites into full compliance will be completed by mid-February.

Digital Content

BookSense.com is pursuing several initiatives in the arena of digital content:

  • eBooks. BookSense.com has recently signed an agreement to sell digital content through Ingram Digital Ventures. Ingram will provide content in three formats -- Palm OS, Adobe, and Microsoft Reader -- that will be available for purchase and download by customers of booksellers' sites. BookSense.com anticipates rolling this new functionality out in the first quarter of this year. This will also permit BookSense.com stores to participate in the Caravan initiative.

  • Look Inside. BookSense.com is currently working with both HarperCollins and Random House on "look-inside-the-book" functionality. This means booksellers' customers will be able to see the first several pages of thousands of Harper and Random titles. BookSense.com anticipates a first quarter launch for this new feature.

  • Digital Audio. BookSense.com is in discussions with several companies regarding digital downloads of audiobooks. With both iTunes and Audible.com rapidly increasing their share of the audio book market, it is important to help ABA members find a way to participate in this new distribution channel. The goal is to provide booksellers with the ability to sell digital audio downloads this calendar year. BookSense.com plans to send more information about each digital initiative as it unfolds.

An Important Housekeeping Item

 With 2006 now behind us, it's important to clear out pending orders. The more pending orders, the less accurate sales reports will be, and the longer order processing will take.

Clearing out pending orders also helps overall system performance, so BookSense.com encourages booksellers to clean out these orders soon.

New Content Management System

The software that makes up the BookSense.com content management tools is proprietary computer code, written for and maintained by ABA. This software has served BookSense.com well over the years, but as proprietary code, it is limiting. Each time BookSense.com wants to add functionality or fix a bug, it has to rely on an excellent but very small -- and very busy -- programming team. This means the speed of progress is slow.

Innovations in computer programming over the last several years are presenting us with an opportunity to greatly improve BookSense.com by moving to an "open-source" backend system. For those booksellers who are not familiar with Open Source, in short, it's a system whereby anyone can access the core code to make modifications. This means that programmers from different companies around the world develop new and interesting uses for the software and share it with one another. So when we need to add a gift registry, for example, rather than having to create it from whole cloth, we can adapt work that's already been done by someone else (and at no cost) to suit our needs. The speed of development will increase several times.

The move to an open-source system will require several months of programming, a fair amount of quality assurance testing, and then the migration of each store, individually, to the new system. The tools will be new and different, so it will also require education. BookSense.com is estimating that the project will take between 16 and 24 months to complete. During this time, there will be no new development -- other than critical fixes -- to the existing BookSense.com system. Once the digital content work is implemented and the current list of bugs addressed, BookSense.com will announce a freeze on development in order to begin work on the new open source content management system.

Booksellers who have critical fixes or enhancements they believe cannot wait until this work is completed should let the BookSense.com staff know directly. They will review all requests and suggestions, and make a determination as to whether or not the schedule will allow time for the change.

Booksellers who have questions about anything related to BookSense.com, should e-mail staff@booksense.com.