ISBN-13 to Affect Publishers' Direct Electronic Ordering Options

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At the end of November, Pubnet unveiled Instant Response, a program that gives booksellers immediate acknowledgement for purchase orders placed with participating publishers. Instant Response was also introduced as an alternative to direct electronic order (DEO) dial-up systems, which some publishers will be phasing out after the introduction of ISBN-13 in January 2007. At present, six publishers are participating in Instant Response: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers, Penguin Group (USA), Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Of them, three plan to continue to accept direct electronic orders -- Random House, HarperCollins, and Holtzbrinck, and three are slated to discontinue their programs --Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster -- due to ISBN-13-compliance issues.

"It made sense for us to go with an industry solution rather than having to write an ISBN-13-compliant system of our own," explained Penguin Senior Vice President of Distribution James C. Clark. "Most likely we'll discontinue DEO by the end of January, but we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to set up the new application before taking DEO down."

Penguin has tested Instant Response successfully with over 20 stores using IBID, Computac, Booklog, and Wordstock, said Clark, and testing is in progress with Anthology. "We are really pleased with the results," he reported. "The orders go into our system 'hot,' and we return same session acknowledgments within seconds. Instant Response is a great solution from Bowker for a problem we'd struggled with. We asked for their help, and they really came through for us, and for our customers."

For Hachette Book Group,"[DEO] is not going to be obsolete on January 1, but it's going to be obsolete someday," said John Leclerc, Hachette's EDI analyst. "As soon as the 979 prefix becomes a reality, it won't be possible to offer that BISAC file, which only allows for 10 digits as an item identifier. So, for our purposes, we're trying to encourage people to find an alternate method sooner rather than later."

Allison Friel, Simon & Schuster e-commerce manager, reported that S&S is asking customers currently using DEO to transition to a new ordering method by the end of January. She added that the publisher is "currently working with... customers to ensure they are set up and functioning fully on the new ordering method chosen. Once we are sure all have transitioned, we will shut down the application on our side."

Simon & Schuster chose to discontinue DEO, said Friel, because the current BISAC format used by that ordering method cannot support ISBN-13. "S&S felt the time and cost to reprogram this system internally was not an effective use of resources," she explained. "We would still be trying to operate on old and increasingly unreliable technology."

Simon & Schuster has worked closely with Pubnet to develop the Instant Response program, which Friel said offers several advantages over DEO. "Instant Response ensures that our customers would still receive the same immediate response that they expect, and further, we believe that Pubnet adds value and stability," noted Friel. "We also feel this will provide more immediate feedback for customers who had not previously used the DEO system. We have been involved in live testing with Instant Response with a number of our customers and have received positive feedback from our customers on this system."

Random House currently has no plans to discontinue any ordering methods, said Paul Kozlowski, vice president/director of adult field sales. "If there's a customer who places orders in a certain fashion, we will continue to support that option," he said, adding, "We're still accepting phone and fax orders."

Kozlowski said that Random House had completed testing with Pubnet's Instant Response. "We're excited about Pubnet, and we hope booksellers use it," he said. "It's a great tool for any account to see the status of their purchase order instantly."

Holtzbrinck will also keep DEO in place, according to Ray Lockwood, Holtzbrinck IT vice president. "We have no intention of eliminating DEO," said Lockwood. "We'll continue to accept DEO and ISBN-10 orders. Lots of older bookstores cannot support ISBN-13, so we're set up for 10-digit ISBNs, 13-digit ISBNs, as well as GTINs, the 14-digit ISBN."

Lockwood said that, although Holtzbrinck would continue to support DEO, the publisher encourages booksellers to use Pubnet's Instant Response program as a "good way to step into the next level of processing without having to invest a lot of money," since, he noted, many smaller bookstores already are using and familiar with Pubnet.

At HarperCollins, Hugh Davidson, director of systems engineering, explained that the publisher "intends to continue to accept DEO orders" and that they were enhancing their DEO system to handle the 13-digit ISBN. As far as testing the new Instant Response feature of Pubnet, Davidson said, "I believe it's been in place for some time."

To participate in Pubnet's Instant Response, retailers 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 a bookseller already has a SAN, the discounted rate is $50. Information is available at www.pubnet.org or from Bruce Miller, U.S. sales executive for Pubnet/PubEasy, at (908) 219-0053 or bruce.miller@bowker.com. There is no additional fee for booksellers who already have a Pubnet and PubEasy account; however, Pubnet requests booksellers call 1-800-PUBNET1 to validate that their PubEasy account SAN is correct. --Karen Schechner