Electronic Ordering in the Age of 13-Digit ISBNs

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Last November, Pubnet unveiled Instant Response, an alternative to the direct electronic order (DEO) dial-up systems that several publishers began phasing out with the introduction of ISBN-13 in January. Instant Response allows bookstores to place orders and receive backorder acknowledgements, invoices, and advance shipping notices through standardized electronic methods. It also provides booksellers with immediate acknowledgement for purchase orders placed with participating publishers.

In its first seven months, Pubnet Instant Response has overcome some hurdles and has hit several milestones. BTW recently had an opportunity to discuss these and other issues with Bruce A. Miller, the U.S. sales executive for Pubnet and Pubeasy in the higher education and trade publishing markets.

Can you briefly explain why Pubnet Instant Response was developed and how it works?

Bruce A. Miller: Instant Response was designed to replace the Direct Electronic Order systems that have been in existence for the last 15 years. These DEO systems use antiquated dial-up modem technology, and some cannot handle 13-digit ISBNs.

Instant Response works by integrating the Pubnet technology already built into a retail POS system with PubEasy, which has a direct interface with the publishers' back office systems in order to take retailer orders and generate an instant order response. Usually, a bookstore will receive an order response in less than a minute, faster than the DEO system it replaces.

Technically speaking, how does it all work?

Using a unique Instant Response publisher SAN, the order is routed using FTP through to PubEasy, which translates the order from EDI to PubEasy and places the order directly into the publisher system and generates an immediate order acknowledgment using the PubEasy title status code for availability. This acknowledgement is translated back to an EDI POA, sent via FTP back to the Pubnet mailbox and back to the bookstore. This whole process usually takes less than a minute.

What does a bookstore need to do to use Instant Response?

Since Pubnet Instant Response uses both Pubnet and PubEasy technology, bookstores need to be signed up for both systems in order to use it, even though they don't 'see' PubEasy when using the service. Since the bookseller has PubEasy access as a result, many are taking the opportunity to try PubEasy, and that has helped contribute to a 40 percent increase in PubEasy traffic over last year.

What publishers are currently participating in Instant Response?

Hachette Book Group -- SAN 8525463
HarperCollins Publishers -- SAN 2002086
Penguin Group USA -- SAN 8525455
Random House -- SAN 8525579
Simon & Schuster -- SAN 8525471
VHPS -- SAN 8525587

How have booksellers responded to Pubnet Instant Response?

People always show a reluctance to change established habits, but take-up is now in full swing. Early adopters jumped on in December and January, while many initially stayed on the sidelines. Since then, participation has been steady and momentum has definitely picked up now that we're past the halfway point. I think that word-of-mouth has now kicked-in and booksellers are telling each other that Instant Response works.

At present, we have 180 stores signed on, more than half the 330 stores that had used DEO.

Last week, 120 stores placed 400 orders on the system. This has been growing steadily on a monthly basis. On Tuesday of this week, we received more than 110 orders.

How are the POS vendors reacting to Pubnet Instant Response?

All of the major POS vendors have been very responsive, and several have already integrated Pubnet Instant Response into their systems' order options. Instant Response is Pubnet using a different mailbox, so it's very straightforward.

On the subject of POS vendors, we are also integrating PubEasy into major POS systems so that booksellers can access real-time price and availability, order status, and backorder status information directly through their POS systems. Booklog will release integrated PubEasy in August, Anthology in October, to mention two.

Instant Response has been an ambitious undertaking. Were there any bumps in the road and what have you done to address them?

In the beginning, we worked with a small group of bookstores to test the system, and we found that the status codes for availability in PubEasy didn't match up with the acknowledgement codes in Pubnet. These were revamped earlier this year and are working much better. We'll continue to make system improvements going forward, and we're always interested in bookseller comments.

What does Pubnet Instant Response cost?

Pubnet Instant Response is free to the bookseller. To use Instant Response, the bookseller needs to be a member of both Pubnet and PubEasy and have a valid SAN. PubEasy membership is free, and we are offering special Pubnet and SAN pricing for booksellers joining Instant Response this year. Pubnet costs a one-time fee of $50 (normally $75) and a SAN costs $75 (normally $150).

What should booksellers do if they are still not sure they can send orders through Pubnet Instant Response?

They can contact Paul Shannon or Bruce Miller [Paul.Shannon@Bowker.com or Bruce.Miller@Bowker.com] to verify their valid Pubnet and PubEasy memberships and to ensure that the publishers have matched their PubEasy IDs to their accounts.

Who should booksellers contact if they have a problem with an order?

They can contact us at Support@Pubnet.org or 1-888-Bowker2, or their POS provider.