Edelweiss, the interactive, Webbased publishers' catalogue officially launched at BookExpo America last year by Above the Treeline, is receiving high marks from independent booksellers for both streamlining their communications with publishers and easing their own back-end workloads. And, they tell PW, Edelweiss's usefulness is amplified for those booksellers also using ATL's Treeline Analytics system to manage their stores' inventory.
"We only have to learn one standard format for everybody, not one for every publisher," explains Suzanna Hermans, a buyer at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, N.Y., about the benefits of Edelweiss. "We don't have to learn different systems and thus lose all the time we are saving," points out Katherine Ferguson, manager and children's buyer at Bunch of Grapes on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Ferguson says she is very pleased that more and more publishers are integrating their catalogues into Edelweiss's universal interface—which probably accounts for its usage tripling during the January– April selling season this year.
Edelweiss now has catalogue information on 55,000 frontlist and select backlist titles published by 27 companies, a mix of publishers and distributors; altogether, the companies represent approximately 800 publishers and imprints. Of the "Big Six" publishers, all but Simon & Schuster have signed on with Edelweiss, and the distributors include Ingram Publisher Services. John Rubin, ATL's founder and CEO, estimates that 60%–70% of its 1,500 users are either independent or chain booksellers, with the rest being librarians, wholesalers, media, and book bloggers.
Hermans admits it took her some time to adapt to ordering books using Edel-weiss rather than paging through a traditional print catalogue, but after a year of ordering through the system, she's become a smarter buyer. Meanwhile, Edelweiss's automatic uploading into her store's inventory system title information on the books she's ordered saves her "hundreds of hours each year," as the data no longer has to be manually entered by store employees. This feature was the one cited by every bookseller PW talked to as the system's single most valuable component.
While booksellers deny being more receptive to buying titles available through Edelweiss over titles that are not in the system, Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at Boulder Book Store in Colorado, reports that staff "groan" now when they have to order books from print catalogues. "It's a real labor issue," he says. "It could impact ordering behavior in the future."
Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kans., reports that ordering titles through Edelweiss takes her more time than perusing a print catalogue. But besides saving time on data entry, not having to exit the system to look up comparable titles and sales information for her store—because it's automatically transferred from her Treeline Analytics account to Edelweiss—also saves her time on the back end.
"This is a good publisher's tool as well, if they want to cross-promote a genre or a new author," she says, adding that she's noticed that if a rep is using Edelweiss, there's a significant difference in the quality of the dialogue between store buyer and rep, particularly phone reps. As long as reps are familiar with Edelweiss, the online catalogue increases the importance of the rep, Bagby says.
Rubin says he is planning on adding new features to Edelweiss to serve end users beyond retailers, such as agents interested in sub-rights updates. At BEA, the company will roll out Serendipity, a digital catalogue service modeled on Edelweiss tailored specifically for small presses that may not have sales forces or their own catalogues.