Technology Meetup Recap: Shipping Tools

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On Thursday, October 8, the American Booksellers Association presented a Technology Meetup on shipping tools. This session featured booksellers discussing what shipping platforms and software they are using, what their process is, and useful tips.

Guest speakers included: Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books in Rhinebeck and Millerton, New York; Alison Gwinn of Changing Hands in Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona; Kathy Burnette of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, Indiana; and Vincent Onorati of WORD Bookstores in Brooklyn, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey.

A recording of the session can be viewed on the Education Resources page on

Here are some of the key points from the session:

Brain Lair Books

  • For tools, Burnette’s store has used Pirate Ship,, and ShipStation to ship through USPS, UPS, and FedEx. She prefers using Pirate Ship because it’s free.
  • Brain Lair generally ships using Media Mail and domestic ground; returns are done via Media Mail.
  • Burnette has noticed the post office getting slower and slower when it comes to shipping. Recently, her store had an entire shipment disappear, and was forced to send the shipment twice.
  • She uses, which owns ShipStation, because she likes the interface, but it is costly. She used it mostly during the summer when the store had many orders to ship; the service allows stores to easily upload a CSV file for shipments. It also offers a simple view for tracking shipments.
  • Neither or ShipStation integrate with her POS systems, Basil and Square. She uses Basil to track orders, and made new statuses in IndieCommerce for tracking online orders.
  • To communicate with customers about shipments, Burnette uses email or text messaging through Google Voice.
  • When she uses Pirate Ship, she doesn’t notify customers about their shipments until two days after she sends them the package, which gives her a bit of leeway to get to the post office.
  • For printing, Burnette uses an HP printer and is in the HP Smart Program, which regularly sends her ink when her printer is running low.
  • She reuses packing material that publishers send.

Changing Hands

  • Gwinn said that Changing Hands uses, which allows her to easily work with bulk book orders through CSV files.
  • Changing Hands communicates with customers about shipments through email.
  • To print shipping labels, Changing Hands uses a special laser printer from
  • Changing Hands uses USPS for pickup only, and pickups are scheduled in advance daily.
  • The post office has gotten slower with pickups in Arizona, Gwinn noted; it has missed a few days even if the store has it scheduled.
  • Changing Hands also reuses publisher packaging and free USPS shipping materials. 

Oblong Books

  • Hermans said that Oblong uses’s desktop software. It can be slow, but it works especially well for booksellers working with bulk book orders.
  • doesn’t integrate at all with her POS.
  • She recently started communicating with customers about their shipments through emails. Previously, the store only offered tracking if customers requested it.
  • Oblong uses a DYMO printer for labels. Because it tends to skip labels, Hermans has also purchased a Rollo brand printer, which she’s very happy with.
  • For packing materials, Oblong uses Staples and WB Mason, and also reuses publisher materials in addition to USPS free shipping materials. In all packages, Oblong includes a small postcard thanking customers for shopping local.
  • While Oblong doesn’t use any special tracking software, the store does use different statuses in IndieCommerce and Gmail tags on incoming orders. 
  • During the holiday season, Oblong will be using Ingram direct-to-home as much as possible because of the amount of sales Hermans anticipates in-store. 

WORD Bookstores

  • Onorati said his store uses Pitney Bowes SendPro, and the store prints labels on a DataMax printer.
  • The store uses custom boxes for care packages.
  • To communicate with customers, the store uses email.
  • For returns, WORD uses UPS, and usually drops it off at the post office.
  • WORD has also worked with IndieCommerce to create customizations, such as a shipping label export. Because WORD has two locations, it also uses a function to filter orders to the right location.