On Thursday, May 14, the American Booksellers Association presented a Technology Meetup that looked at services and tools that are helping booksellers manage the new ways of doing business that many are having to adjust to during the COVID-19 crisis.
Guest speakers included Broche Fabian of River Dog Book Co. in Portland, Oregon; Ariana Paliobagis of Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana; Bryan Loar of Cover to Cover Children’s Books in Columbus, Ohio; and Dave Lucey of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Here are some key points from the session:
River Dog Book Co.
- Fabian shared that her store is non-traditional and does not have a physical space. She partners with community members and organizations to do pop-up events where allowed, and has been shipping books from home the entire time she’s owned her store (about two years).
- She uses an online platform for shipping, Pirate Ship. Users can create a single shipping label or upload a spreadsheet of addresses, and can also integrate different selling platforms. She noted that, unfortunately, many bookselling-specific e-commerce platforms do not integrate with the site, but general ones do.
- Pirate Ship labels can be printed using a regular printer.
- She also uses a physical “shipping basket” to keep organized while working from home. It includes a scale, tape, measuring tape, bookmarks, stickers, scissors, pens, and postcards.
Page 158 Books
- Lucey shared that his store has been doing many deliveries, which prompted them to use Google Maps to create efficient delivery routes. Because only 10 addresses can be put into Google Maps at a time, Lucey uses Morethan10.com to add more.
- He also uses MapQuest, which has a free route planner. The one drawback to this service is that it sometimes does not recognize newer addresses. Users can input a CSV file or copy and paste the addresses they will be driving to. From there, users can toggle between options, such as shortest time and shortest distance, in addition to checking out gas prices and arrival times.
- Another route-planning option is Mapping Sheets, which works with Google Sheets. It costs $25 per year for one user. He said this service is fast, performs well, allows for multiple routes per person driving, and will track mileage. It can also be integrated with Google Maps.
- Paliobagis said that while she lives in a state that is allowed to reopen, her store is currently only resuming its pickup service. The curbside pickup process was constantly filling up the store’s phone lines, which prompted them to create a pickup schedule. Between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., customers can pick up their order at a table at the front of the store.
- Paliobagis uses Schedulicity to coordinate pickup time slots, which is free through July 1, and after that, will cost a minimum of $20 per month. An account should be set up with an email address that multiple employees will have access to.
- In the first week and a half, 215 customers used it, which was 215 phone calls the store’s booksellers didn’t need to answer, Paliobagis said. Customers are notified that their order is ready via email, which reduces interaction between customers and staff. Additionally, if a customer would like to pick up their order during a time that isn’t available, Paliobagis will schedule a custom time. This can be done over the phone, with a staff member manually putting the information into Schedulicity.
Cover to Cover Children’s Books
- Loar uses QR codes to bridge the gap between the staff and window browsers that are stopping by. His store is in a residential area, with a lot of people stopping by to see what’s in the windows; he capitalized on that opportunity by creating pages on the store’s IndieCommerce site to reflect window displays.
- Customers can use their smartphones to scan QR codes in the windows, which will bring them to a specific page on the store’s website. These pages can also be created for things such as school book fairs, and are built out using the Book List function on IndieCommerce sites. To create a list, ISBNs can be scanned in from physical books, and can be arranged in any order.
- He created the QR codes using an online generator.
A recording of this meetup can be found on the Education Resources page on BookWeb.org.