Smaller Booksellers Unite Against Online Giants

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced today that it will build an e-commerce portal for small independent bookstores, that will be located at Booksense.com.

The ABA tapped Atlanta, Georgia based iXL Inc., to handle the basic design, and said it will license the book preview database of Muze Inc., which already provides book, video and music databases to rivals Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and many others. The launch of the online store is scheduled for sometime this summer, and will be preceded by a major branding campaign to push the “Book Sense” theme. The goal will be to reach out to shoppers who have flocked to the giant online bookstores, such as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and reacquaint them with the inherent qualities of independent bookstores — personality, passion, knowledge, community and character — which the ABA states are the central themes of BookSense.com. The Players Among the major independent bookstores already signed to BookSense.com are the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, A Different Light in New York, and the Twig Bookshop of San Antonio, Texas. All three stores contributed members to an “Internet Task Force” that worked closely to design the BookSense.com site, with iXL and Muze over the last few months. While participating bookstores will retain their own brand identity through the BookSense.com program, each individual site will be co-branded with Book Sense. The ABA will charge participants a one-time set up fee and a flat monthly fee for the service. All sales proceeds will go directly to the participating stores. Davids vs. Goliaths The ABA aims to position BookSense.com to provide the smaller, independent booksellers with their own Web presence, while sharing the more expensive back-end costs that have made it nearly impossible for the “little guys” to compete with their online giant counterparts. That back-end consists of the Muze database, with 1.6 million listings, as well as iXL’s templates and back-end capabilities. Participating stores will have the option of building their own front-ends using a template, or linking to BookSense.com from their current Web sites. Stores will also be able to add their own local content to their sites.

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