Last week, in a series of meetings arranged by the American Booksellers Association, U.S. publishers and wholesalers had the opportunity to learn about batch.co.uk, a service of the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland, that is designed to help reduce overhead in the supply chain by providing a single, consolidated payment solution. Leading the presentations, which included a session for members of the Book Industry Study Group on Thursday, July 20, at Random Houses offices in New York City, was Fraser Tanner, managing director of batch.co.uk.
ABA has been exploring the applicability of Batch in the U.S. since January, when the association's Board of Directors and Booksellers Advisory Council met with Tanner in conjunction with the ABA Board Meeting in Long Beach, California. "ABA believes that this kind of technology would offer huge time and cost savings for booksellers," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, who noted that it was because of the strong interest expressed by booksellers at the January meetings that ABA set up the publisher meetings to ascertain the level of interest here in the U.S.
Batch enables participating U.K. and Irish booksellers to make a single monthly payment, via ACH withdrawal, that covers payments to all of the bookseller's suppliers, and, in turn, suppliers receive a single monthly payment from all of their customers. Tanner's presentation emphasized that Batch improves communication between suppliers and their customers, and that it provides organizations of all sizes the advantages of trading electronically.
Batch receives invoice information from suppliers on a daily basis, Tanner explained. The information is either sent to Batch electronically, or invoices are created by suppliers on the batch.co.uk website. Once the information is in the Batch database booksellers can access it. This can be done via the Web, via electronic delivery systems such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) or FTP (File Transfer Protocol, over the Internet), or on a Batch paper statement, which provides summary invoice information from all suppliers in a single document. Booksellers can tell Batch what invoices they wish to pay, and suppliers can see what invoices have been set for payment through the Batch website.
Tanner noted that any computer system can send invoices electronically to Batch -- access to the Internet is all that is required. He stressed that a key benefit of Batch is that it aggregates supplier data into a single EDI feed so that the bookseller only has to use one interface, as opposed to dealing with multiple paper invoices, "poor audit trails," and "lots of queries as a result of human error." --David Grogan