Getting the book from the publisher to your shelves is no easy task. Drew Turney looks at the players deploying the new breed of software-based enterprise solutions to help you cut through it.
Emailing a publisher for a book order is the simplest expression of enterprise software, but booksellers do a lot more in the course of their day, and if you’re a publisher or distributor dealing with tens of thousands of titles for processing, it becomes a lot more complicated.
Enter enterprise software, a tool you can leverage to make dealing with suppliers easier. In everything from inventory to e-commerce, Bookseller and Publisher brings you a selection of tools in the marketplace right now.
B2BE is a supplier of software solutions for the transmitting of documents, data or other electronic information between your systems and those of your suppliers.
Their flagship is the B2BE Transaction Delivery Network, a workflow that connects you with the supply chain seamlessly. Client software interfaces with your existing business system and receives all your documentation or data, applying both data validation and enrichment. Respectively, they refer to the process of confirming the data is right according to parameters that apply to your particular business, and the automatic ‘plugging in’ of missing information that would delay the electronic transaction.
With clients that includes plenty of household names around the world, B2BE looks at first glance like they might be a little beyond setting up a small bookshop or even a chain of a few outlets, but the Transaction Delivery Network is scalable to suit their clients so it’s worth a look — particular with the possibility of mobile device interface, so you can check everything right on your smart phone or PDA.
IBS’s Steve Hall recently reported in Bookseller and Publisher on a 1999 KMPG report that said book returns were costing the UK industry over AUD$200m in processing, a figure that would presumably be even more now.
IBS Bookmaster’s effort to curtail such a figure is Bookmaster, an enterprise management program for the entire supply chain whether you’re a publisher, distributor or distributor with a retail operation attached.
IBS claims it’s built around such technologies robust enough to apply to industries other than publishing as well, but unlike B2BE, Bookmaster has been built from the ground up for our field. The system at Bookmaster’s core is based around financial and distribution information, but modules developed by IBS include paying royalties, returns, subscriptions, book production, direct mail, academic publishing, buying groups, e-commerce, customer relationship management, warehousing and business intelligence.
Bookmaster is a very detailed system at every level. If you’re in publishing, it will let you set out publishing plans from production through to paying royalties to authors. If you’re in distribution it’ll manage the distribution cycle easily — not easy with increasing numbers of products and more fragmented markets to reach.
Financial modules can do all your accounting and business intelligence plug-ins can mine your data for strategies and ideas you might not have thought of.
If you operate an online bookseller or you’re a publisher selling direct to the public through your website, Bookmaster’s e-commerce tools come with everything you need built in, from inventory management to a shopping cart facility with full searchability and reporting.
And if you do any or all of this and more, it even offers a point of sale component that integrates instantly with all your other data, be it warehousing, pricing or inventory.
Vista international’s flagship product, author2reader, is a methodology that consists of four basic tenets. The first is a product database that covers your whole organisation or supply chain. The second is a single customer database. Third is third party solutions that can plug into author2reader depending on your needs, and last is a dataset specific to the publishing industry that provides analysis and reporting across the board.
As new books are usually promoted (and ordered) long before they’re released), author2reader accumulates them as backorders for processing together. So if a publisher gets a lot of small orders for the same title, author2reader can combine it all into a single dispatch order to save time and money of handling and freight.
Any of author2reader’s components can be rolled out individually depending on your size or needs, and they read like a who’s who of online commerce, stock management, customer relations and financial management tools. Everything from editorial to e-commerce is covered, as well as the Fulfilment Solution, the lynchpin of the author2reader service offering that can handle any format of product from books to multimedia or subscriptions.
Vista International can also customise most of their processes and tools for you, offering a full suite of application development and application hosting solutions for running your whole operation online.
SAP is a global provider of business solutions to just about any industry you can think of.
Their tool of choice is the mySAP business suite, a host of programs in business management, CRM, accounting and more. Called ‘adaptive’ applications, SAP has considerable weight and expertise to throw behind making sure their product is tailored to our industry.
They have something of an overarching approach, seeming to be able to suit any type of business you can name. As such, any expertise they can bring to bear on publishing seems to be thanks to a determination to be all things to all people rather than from defined knowledge in our area.
But the components of mySAP can be run individually as well as collectively so depending on your size and style of operation there’s an inherent scalability that should suit you. And as with most enterprise solutions, it’s all done over the Internet.
The dedicated booksellers e-commerce tool is now offered by the ECN group, an enterprise solutions provider that services about 3,000 companies in all industries across Australia and a New Zealand.
The ECN Group is all about integrating. Part of what they do is consulting to make sure your existing business systems work together the best way possible for you to automate your information and mine it for what you need to know.
The key to their service offering is Viibe, a tool that becomes the centrepiece for all your disparate data systems and processes — even staff and inventories in far-flung locations — and manages it in a central processing hub.
The ECN Group helps with the transition as well, by sending a consultant to streamline the way you do things and help it all integrate with a product like Viibe. Best of all it’s web-based so you don’t need to install and learn a whole lot of new software.
The ECN Group are also specialists in business-to-business messaging, letting you trade documentation and data with suppliers and customers no matter where they are in your supply chain.