Indie Stores to Have a Significant Presence in Cyberspace

Posted on March 16, 1999

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced that it has begun construction of an ecommerce Web site that will allow its independent bookstore members to sell books via the Internet. The site, "BookSense.com," will be a part of "Book Sense," the national brand identity campaign being launched by ABA this spring. In addition to raising consumer awareness about the value of independent bookstores, BookSense.com will also allow visitors to buy books online.

ABA has partnered with two companies to construct the project. Muze, a leading database company, will supply the core data and online merchandising expertise for BookSense.com; and iXL, a leading strategic Internet services company, will design and build the site architecture and functionality. The blueprint for the site was created jointly by Muze, iXL, the ABA staff and a special "Internet Task Force" of independent booksellers over the last several months.

BookSense.com will provide independent bookstores with the ability to have their own Web presence while allowing them to share back-end costs with their colleagues around the country. The back-end will consist of the 1.6 million title Muze database; searching, shopping and transaction processing capabilities; and third-party fulfillment. Participating stores will be provided with national content from the database and other sources, and will also be able to add their own local content, bringing their bricks-and-mortar store directly to their customers on the Web.

While bookstores will retain their own brand identity through the BookSense.com program, each individual site will be co-branded with Book Sense. All sales will go directly to the participating stores, and ABA will charge a one-time set up fee and a flat monthly fee for the service.

Avin Mark Domnitz, ABA Chief Executive Officer, noted that "this is the most exciting and most complex project ABA has ever undertaken. In addition to working with iXL and Muze to get the core functionality built, we're setting up an entire ecommerce operation within ABA. The scope is daunting, but this is a service that the membership needs and we are proud to provide it."

"While I strongly believe that bricks-and-mortar stores will remain the dominant means of selling books, there is no question that online sales are going to continue to grow at an explosive rate," said Mr. Weese, who in addition to serving on the Internet Task Force is also an ABA Board member. "Independent booksellers need exactly what BookSense.com will provide: a cost-effective way of interacting with and selling to our customers online and under our own brand name."

Mr. Domnitz noted that the BookSense.com project will be previewed at BookExpo America (April 30 to May 2, Los Angeles Convention Center), and is slated for launch in mid to late summer 1999. He also noted that Len Vlahos, ABA's communications director, will head BookSense.com.

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