Free Trial Offers 'The Way to Go' [5] [6] is now offering Book Sense marketing program members the chance to launch their own Web site -- free of charge, with no obligation to continue after the free trial ends. The Free Trial Offer, which began June 1 and runs through September 30, 2004, offers booksellers a chance to test this valuable online sales and marketing tool.

"We believe is, by far, the best tool available to independent booksellers desiring an online presence," said Director Len Vlahos. "This free trial gives Book Sense members a risk-free opportunity to take the product for a test drive. We think they'll like what they find."

Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska, was one bookstore chosen to beta test the offer. The store began its free trial in May, and Fireside's co-owner David Cheezem is thus far very pleased with the early results from their site, [7]. "I think it's going pretty well," he told BTW. "We had our own Web site, but it was not an [e-commerce site], and … we wanted to make a transition. We felt was the way to go."

At present, the store is marketing the site to customers and plans on creating an affiliate network with local Alaskan writers and other organizations to drive traffic to the site, Cheezem explained. In addition, the bookstore has an in-store "As Featured on Our Web Site" table, and "we've got a growing e-mail list that I throw blasts out to and we'll be pointing to the Web site," he said.

Overall, Cheezem reported that he is "extremely happy" with the template and the fact that it gives him the ability to update information, such as adding books or specials to the store site, quickly. Most important, he stressed, is the flexibility the templates offer, allowing him to maintain his independent vision, while at the same time, building the Book Sense and brand. "You have the branding, but there is lots of room to have your personality come through, as well," he said.

For more information and to sign up for the free trial, booksellers should send an e-mail to [8]. --David Grogan [9]