Book Business EXTRA Q&A—Charles Halpin, General Manager of Pubnet/PubEasy, Talks About a New ‘Lightning Fast’ Book Ordering System
With the launch of Bowker’s Pubnet Instant Response this week, book retailers can reorder books more quickly from several of the industry’s largest publishers. General Manager Charles Halpin chats with Book Business EXTRA! about the benefits of this new ordering program.
Book Business EXTRA: How is Instant Response different from what was available before for ordering?
Halpin: Pubnet Instant Response is a new service for book retailers that is offered with participating publishers—today, Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Holtzbrinck. Instant Response is different because it is lightning-fast. Instant Response is available to any publisher that utilizes both Pubnet and PubEasy, Bowker’s supply chain services.
The chief benefit of Pubnet Instant Response is its speed—it’s an end-to-end electronic process for both the retailer and the publisher, which is very efficient and cost-effective. Unlike a phone order, a retailer doesn’t have to go back and key data into its POS system. Instant Response is also ISBN-13 compliant, so it has the ability to replace the old, dial-up direct electronic order (DEO) systems, many of which are being shut down by publishers in 2007.
EXTRA: When was this officially introduced to the market?
Halpin: We’ve been testing with customers for over a month now, and the official launch was Dec. 12, so it is now live. There are already 75 leading retailers registered today. Instant Response is free to retailers who have signed up for Bowker’s Pubnet and PubEasy services.
EXTRA: How will this form of instant orders help improve business for publishers too?
Halpin: Instant Response is integrated seamlessly and electronically on the publisher side—there is no manual intervention like there is with phone calls or faxes, so it reduces their cost of doing business. Reducing transaction costs while improving services is a real win, and because it is ISBN-13 compliant, it’s one less system for the publisher to manage and migrate.
EXTRA: How much quicker will orders be filled, on average, with the new system?
Halpin: Instant Response provides order acknowledgments within a minute, on average—no other method is faster.
EXTRA: What research went into its development?
Halpin: We spoke to major publishers, point-of-sale vendors, retailers, and the American Booksellers Association to put together a list of our objectives. Key goals were to create a system that could be integrated electronically with both bookstores and publishers and to avoid work for our customers, and that meant using deployed technologies.
Pubnet is integrated into all major bookstore point-of-sale systems—Visual Anthology is the latest to join the Pubnet community—and PubEasy is integrated into the major trade book publishers.
One key feature that PubEasy already offers publishers is the ability to deliver an instant response to bookstore orders. That was the starting point. The Instant Response system that we developed takes the Pubnet order from the bookstore. Behind the scenes, we translate that order into a PubEasy order that we pass to the publisher. We then take the PubEasy instant order response from the publisher and translate it back to a Pubnet EDI order acknowledgment that we send back to the bookstore. This all happens very quickly—some orders are acknowledged in as little as 15 seconds. Bookstores who have been using the system have been giving us very positive feedback.
EXTRA: How should publishers prepare themselves for the introduction of ISBN-13 at this point?
Halpin: Publishers currently receiving electronic orders from Pubnet will need to ensure they have a method in place to accept, store and transmit 13-Digit ISBNs by Jan. 1, 2007. As a best practice, it is encouraged that suppliers’ EDI translators distinguish each identifier as it is received—plus process and transmit each accordingly, as soon as possible.
EXTRA: Will it just be the bigger publishing houses that are involved with this?
Haplin: Any publisher with a fulfillment system can participate.