Building workflow solutions that embed an application into the production flow or process of a business or organization is a powerful way to build customer loyalty. Traditionally, those are not the type of applications you generally see in the book retail space less you happen to be the software provider Above the Treeline, which is doing exactly that.
When I was at Bowker in 2004, I met John Rubin who was rolling out the first version of his software product for small independent retailers. I was immediately taken by the product he was launching. Notably, his product development originated from real experience working with his family-owned independent store and this theme – taking a workflow approach to development – continues to serve the company well as it gains more recent success from Edelweiss, the company’s catalog application.
The core Above the Tree Line product enables booksellers to manage their inventory and store product mix in far more productive and profitable ways. For many stores, using this tool has probably enabled them to weather the recent cruel economic times far more effectively than they may have without it. Stores using the tool are able to see both their own inventory mix and turns and those of other stores in their geographic areas. This ‘collective’ knowledge encourages better market awareness and more intelligent buying decisions, supporting better sales performance.
Edelweiss is a newer product application that builds on the base Above the Treeline application. In speaking to John recently, he emphasized that, in the development of Edelweiss, the workflow approach was key to understanding how a typical bookstore, publisher and publicity person worked with book catalogs. The application has been in full roll-out for just over a year and continues to garner unsolicited positive comments from users. “Timesaver” and “efficiency” seem to be the recurrent themes of this feedback. Above the Treeline was able to establish an early relationship with the ABA and has recently announced an agreement with Association of American University Presses (AAUP).
Edelweiss allows any registered user to create a catalog which can then be marked up and emailed (distributed) to others. The users can order from the catalog and data is also integrated with a store’s point-of-sale system. Users can also add more information to a title such as covers, internal reference materials or other content, and using WYSIWYG screens makes adding this content very easy. From the publisher perspective, they can set up catalogs any way they want. No longer does a publisher or sales rep have to rely on a generic catalog: Building one by genre, previous seasons buys or any other criteria is simple, efficient and effective. The sales rep is also able to create custom address lists so they can create their own mailing lists within the system to make their communication far more productive.
This is a “publisher pays” model with free access to the service for retailers. The publisher pays a base administration fee and then a per-title charge for each six-month period. The payback for publishers should be obvious in reduced hard-copy catalogs, more effective sales reps and better and more efficient buy-in from the stores.
In coming months, the company expects to enhance Edelweiss with several new enhancements that they emphasize (again) come from the feedback they have received from the marketplace. These will include:
- Subject/Format Mapping: Retailers will appreciate the ability to map to POS departments using a combination of bisac subject category and bisac format code.
- Google Map Authors and Titles: Soon the company will introduce the ability to search Edelweiss based on geographic criteria in conjunction with the currently available filter criteria. Set an address and a radius to search, and results will be mapped on Google maps based on available author bio info (residence, birthplace, universities attended or affiliated) and title setting or relevance.
- Custom Market Views: As the number of users and publishers have grown, the company has seen a need to provide different views of the system. Soon retailers and other catalog readers will be able to choose between a number of different market views such as General Trade, Christian Trade, Academic and others. Each view will provide a custom set of publishers, catalogs and titles specifically for that market.
Not only is Above the Treeline expanding the functionality of Edelweiss, but they also continue to look for other opportunities to improve the relationship between independent retailers and publishers (such as the Book Expo relationship). Late last year, the company announced a partnership with Firebrand Technologies that allows integration of the Net Galley e-Galley service into Edelweiss. From their press release:
Edelweiss publishers will be able to use NetGalley’s powerful functionality to offer digital galleys, with or without DRM, directly from their Edelweiss catalogs. NetGalley supports a broad range of dedicated reading devices and platforms and publishers can select reading options and security features based on their specific needs.
For NetGalley publishers with Edelweiss catalogs, this additional functionality will come at no additional charge. Edelweiss publishers who are not currently using NetGalley will be able to purchase the NetGalley add-on on a per-title basis for their Edelweiss catalogs through Above the Treeline. The first electronic galleys provided by NetGalley will appear in Edelweiss in the second quarter of 2010.
As the Net Galley integration takes hold and more Edelweiss functionality is implemented we should see even wider acceptance of Above the Treeline products and services. Interestingly, other publishers outside the traditional independent retail segment are starting to take note of the Above the Treeline products with Moody Publishers and their 34,000 titles announcing that they have chosen Edelweiss as their web-based catalog of choice. And I am sure there will be more to come.