John Rubin Wants Booksellers to See Above the Treeline

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In late February, Rubin Venture Consulting rolled out a new online software product, Above the Treeline, a tool meant to help bookstores improve finances by controlling inventory costs and increasing staffing efficiency. At the time, four booksellers were using the software; today, that number has grown to 12. The company's founder, John Rubin, told BTW that he has improved his product and is seeking to add as many new booksellers as he can. "[Above the Treeline] is going to improve your financial performance," he said. "It will make it easier to improve inventory turns, which improves your cash flow, first and foremost."

Rubin created Above the Treeline, he said, because he felt that there were few good tools available to help booksellers analyze operational performance and create operationally focused forecasts and budgets. Inspired in part by ABA's ABACUS survey, Rubin set out to produce his software product. Above the Treeline permits a bookseller to track inventory, staffing, and to see what titles are selling well at other Above the Treeline stores.

Five months after the product rollout, Rubin noted that he's made some enhancements to the product. For one, inventory management is now "category management," and, in addition to tracking turns for each category in the store, it also tracks specific title sales, which a bookseller can then compare to another store.

"You can drill down, and you can identify problem area categories and see what titles are doing well and what titles are not," Rubin explained. "Then, you can see what titles are doing well for other Above the Treeline bookstores." He noted that, as soon as he has enough bookstores using the product, he would be able to break sales out by bookstore size and region.

Additionally, Above the Treeline is now more user-friendly, Rubin said. Previously, a user would have to send a file to Rubin on a weekly or monthly basis. Now, after setting up the program, the bookseller does not have to do anything -- the program does this automatically as long as the POS system is connected to the Internet. If not, then the bookseller has to take the files to a computer with Internet access to send to Rubin Venture Consulting. Also, to use the software, a bookseller must be using an IBID, Square One, or Books In Store POS system.

Finally, the navigation has been improved to make it easier for the user to get the information they need quickly. "It's a general usability improvement," he said.

Rubin now is focusing on bringing in more clients to make the data as relevant as possible. He told BTW that he's offering booksellers an introductory price of 40 percent off. "It's important, with cross-store information, to get as many stores participating as possible, to be able to measure different things," he said.

For more information about Above the Treeline, contact Rubin at (734) 995-0635, or go to