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BookSense.com Beta Test Starts
Edward Nawotka -- 8/14/00

BookSense.com, the long-awaited e-commerce component of the American Booksellers Association's Book Sense marketing program, is now undergoing beta testing. The site currently allows booksellers to build an online store free of charge; once the service is fully launched, fees will be charged. Some 330 booksellers have signed up for the service, though only 50 have built online stores. The main site d s not sell books, but refers customers to booksellers.

Avin Domnitz, chief executive officer of the ABA, emphasized that "the program is in beta-testing mode--meaning the system is not yet fully functional, nor expected to be so. We think some people have jumped the gun in looking for features that are not going to be available until the official launch later in the year."

The major feature missing from the site is automated fulfillment. When customers come to the main site, they can search titles, using a database leased from Baker & Taylor. Customers wanting to purchase a book type in a ZIP code and are directed to the nearest bookstore participating in the program. The bookstores set their own discounts and handle their own fulfillment. "The site itself is a hub to aggregate traffic; it is not intended to sell books directly to customers," Domnitz told PW.

The site also d s not offer the capability to download e-books, although Domnitz said he expects that feature to be added in the first half of next year. Domnitz said independent booksellers will be able to compete in the e-book world as long as the platforms are open.

Early adopters of BookSense.com seem pleased with the system. Margy and Roger Layton, co-owners of the Read Leaf Bookshop in Springville, Utah, were enthusiastic about the site. Roger said, "Having come from the software industry, we knew not to expect as much from a beta test, but we just crossed our fingers and jumped in. It walked us through the setup, and the automation of some features are very nice. We're now considering whether or not the site we built on our own without BookSense is redundant."

Ben Gillies, Webmaster of Ruminator Books in St. Paul, Minn., has been working with the Book Sense site for four weeks and noted, "The system is a little less flexible than we expected, but the performance is constantly improving, and the support staff have been responsive to specific suggestions. It's obvious they are taking their priorities from the bookstores."
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