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Thread: Barcodes

  1. #1

    Default Barcodes

    http://www.newsarama.com/Tilting2_0/Tilting44.html http://www.newsarama.com/Tilting2_0/Tilting43.html
    http://www.newsarama.com/Tilting2_0/TiltingIndex.html http://savagecritic.com/labels/POS.html

    Especially

    As you probably know, Diamond is on the cusp of offering an “inexpensive” POS solution, with a DM-specific front-end. Some of you will recall the impact on the general level of professionalism that Carol Kalish’s cash register program (Where Marvel provided, at bulk cost, basic cash registers to a whole fleet of stores who had previously been using the “cigar box” method) had on the DM. A lot of it was incremental, but I think a Right Turn can be measured from that event, and I think the impact of POS upon the DM will be ten times greater.

    While I personally am unconvinced that Diamond’s platform is the best POS solution available to the Direct Market (As most of you know, I’m utterly in love with the MOBY POS system), it’s fairly clear that Diamond’s program will be a major spur for many stores to finally make the leap, because Diamond are the primary, if not sole, source for so many retailers.

    POS is going to make “good” stores that much better, and give “bad” stores much greater and more powerful tools to be able to potentially become “good” (or, at least, “better”)
    And the two shops I visit have both had barcode scanners since the first time I went in them, six-seven years ago...

  2. #2
    New Member kymaera's Avatar
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    The Atomic Comics locations have had bar code scanners for a few years now.

  3. #3
    New Member Joe Willy's Avatar
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    I don't know that any of my local shops have barcode scanners. A couple of extra things to add to the discussion: Icarus Publishing's Simon Jones has pointed out the cost isn't really as high as some have stated (though I agree it still represents a huge expenditure to small publishers which Diamond has proven over and over they consider a burden/expendable); also, the bigger problem to me is Diamond not bothering to announce this to their "vendors" (which is what the call the publishers which to me ties into Steven's point about how money considers talent) but instead broke the story by letting retailers in on it at their annual summit a mere four months before the new rule is to go in to effect - publishers being the first ones in the chain that NEED to know about such rules and retailers basically not needing to know at all (since if they don't have a scanner they don't care and if they do they'll find out when the books come in so it doesn't matter since they're already processing books without those codes now).

    My gut says the announcement was just a way to try to push retailers into buying in to the system right then and there (like the subtle yet high pressure tactics of a used car salesman) and that it's yet another Diamond ploy to strengthen their hand in the DM and possibly branch out in to other venues- don't forget that many rumors were floating than a book distro would jump into the direct market they very weekend Diamond was making the announcement at the summit.

  4. #4
    New Member Joe Willy's Avatar
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    I also highly doubt the congealing conventional wisdom that says this will somehow boost sales of small publishers- what it might do is boost sales of books stores are already ordering (some of which MAY happen to be from small publishers) since they will now as soon as stuff sells out and can immediately boost orders but in no way can I see it prompting retailers to take a chance on books they aren't ordering now (which seems to be what some have suggested at various news sites and blogs) as there's just no logical connection that I can see between barcode scanners and shelf space (unless they start cutting orders on books that aren't selling and look for new material to carry- a dubious proposition) which is often the barrier to stores carrying more independent books since the Big 2 seem intent on crowding out everything else.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Willy View Post
    there's just no logical connection that I can see between barcode scanners and shelf space
    A retailer using good inventory maintenance (which is a lot easier/more likely with a barcode system in place) is more able to handle inventory with a just-in-time attitude. Instead of having 5 copies of Watchmen sitting on the shelf to sell over the next 6 months, they keep two there, not losing any sales for it... and suddenly there's room for copies of Girl Genius, Schulz's Youth, and Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Willy View Post
    the bigger problem to me is Diamond not bothering to announce this to their "vendors" (which is what the call the publishers which to me ties into Steven's point about how money considers talent)
    Diamond refers to "vendors" not because of any sort of dismissive view, but because what they say applies to all of their vendors and not just publishers. Distributing action figures through Diamond? They need bar codes. Mylar snugs? Bar codes. Publishers are just one category of Diamond vendor.
    publishers being the first ones in the chain that NEED to know about such rules and retailers basically not needing to know at all (since if they don't have a scanner they don't care and if they do they'll find out when the books come in so it doesn't matter since they're already processing books without those codes now).
    While I (as a vendor) will agree that the vendors ought to have been told with greater lead time (whether it was first or not is not important), for a retailer who is considering whether to spend the money on a scanner system, it's a very useful piece of information. It suggest that the retailer isn't going to have to spend a lot of time dealing with lots of exceptions to their scanning effort.
    My gut says [...] it's yet another Diamond ploy to strengthen their hand in the DM and possibly branch out in to other venues
    Oh no! A distributor is doing something to try to sell more product and help the retailers do business more efficiently and effectively!

  6. #6

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    I finally read Steven's actually column, and he's got the wrong end of the stick on this one. Speaking as a small publisher:
    Most smaller publishers these days are moving to squarebound anyway, and this is not a big expense for squarebound publishers. Bought in packs of 10, ISBN numbers are about $30 apiece... a cost that will almost certainly be made up by the fact that Amazon, BN.com, etc are now able to order your book. Once you have an ISBN number, the bar code itself can be had for free, either from this online service or your printing provider is likely to be able to make one up for you (and I've actually had bigger problems with the latter option than the former.)
    I've been in plenty of comic shops that use barcode scanners (including ones that have their own codes for bagged back issues, printing up their own stickers to make stock-keeping easier.)
    Bar code scanners are not an undue expense for a comic shop. They don't need the full scan-face rotate-it-any-which-way scanner you see at the supermarket; they can use units which start for under $100. Of course, they need a computer to connect it to, but many stores have these already. Now, getting the full software suite is more of an investment, but there are useful things one can do with the scanner for less.

    And things that help comic shops run more smoothly and profitably are good for everyone higher up in the delivery chain as well.

    (And despite how Steven may want to depict us small publishers -- I've been publishing for 9 years now, currently at a rate of about 3 or 4 projects a year, and not since the first year have we paid anyone on a back-end profit-cut basis. If there's not front money, folks are getting paid for each copy sold starting from the very first. It doesn't always add up to much, but I make that possibility clear from the start.)

  7. #7
    Heretic bartl's Avatar
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    OK, first of all, let me say that I have been kind of out of this for a little over a decade. Back then, I was working on a bookstore POS system, and thought comics dealers might be interested. I went to some of the bigger dealers in New York, and was pretty much told, "Not interested", not the least reason being that each issue of each comic had its own ISSN, and entering them would be a real pain, and, at the time, the two major ordering guides did not have a computer readable ISSN list available. Even then, though, pen scanners were available at under $100.

    I assume that Diamond now makes the ISSN list available online or on disk, and has online ordering? If so, asking for bar codes on the comics makes some sense; it would certainly help out comics shops control their inventory better.

    On the other hand, a couple of years earlier, I helped write a system to allow libraries to keep track of their magazine collections, and I know a number of otherwise excellent libraries where they STILL haven't encoded their magazine collections.
    Bart Lidofsky

  8. #8
    bellatrys
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    Default Putting Barcodes on

    Does anyone know what kind of barcodes Diamond is requiring? See, Mass-Market and Trade-sold books get different numbers, (this is why some paperbacks will have two on the back, or one on the back, one on the inside, so they can be sold under both systems) because bookstores and grocery stores/drug stores use different scanning systems.

    I am sure that they are only doing it to make their own inventory handling cheaper and easier - I remember when Ingram required this of all small presses that they were going to handle, which meant that if you wanted your hardcover or paperback in the big stores, B&N or Borders, you had to start putting them on, and the place I worked had to figure out how to comply. It wasn't for the sake of bookstores but for the sake of the *extremely* unpleasant distributors, whose aggressive attitudes towards profit destroyed several small presses due to their habit of constantly over-ordering, then returning just when their invoices came due, then RE-ordering the same day they returned it, and charging for the shipping, both ways, so as to never have to pay while keeping hold of the inventory for months at a time. And apparently from what I've heard Diamond makes Ingram look like saints.

    FWIW, the technicalities of putting barcodes on aren't too hard, once you figure out the self-contradictory rules, and there is even software that will let you generate your own barcodes fairly inexpensively if your printer can't drop it in (they should be able to, but if small comics printers aren't ready for this then you just get one that creates an EPS (vector) file and treat it like any other graphic) so that part will not be such a big deal.

    However, from having worked in a Big Chain Bookstore during the holidays, I have to say that while you can get away with cutting your barcodes down to 1/2" high, and possibly to .375" if you go any lower you are wasting your time, the scanner won't be able to read them and they will have to be hand typed in every time. Also, while you can print them on a pale color and have them be machine-readable, if you put them on a red background (or a foil one!) then they will never scan. (Yes i saw all of these many, many times behind the register!)

  9. #9
    Heretic bartl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellatrys View Post
    Does anyone know what kind of barcodes Diamond is requiring? See, Mass-Market and Trade-sold books get different numbers, (this is why some paperbacks will have two on the back, or one on the back, one on the inside, so they can be sold under both systems) because bookstores and grocery stores/drug stores use different scanning systems.
    The barcode readers I have worked with take about 10-30 seconds to switch from one format to another.
    I am sure that they are only doing it to make their own inventory handling cheaper and easier - I remember when Ingram required this of all small presses that they were going to handle, which meant that if you wanted your hardcover or paperback in the big stores, B&N or Borders, you had to start putting them on, and the place I worked had to figure out how to comply. It wasn't for the sake of bookstores but for the sake of the *extremely* unpleasant distributors, whose aggressive attitudes towards profit destroyed several small presses due to their habit of constantly over-ordering, then returning just when their invoices came due, then RE-ordering the same day they returned it, and charging for the shipping, both ways, so as to never have to pay while keeping hold of the inventory for months at a time. And apparently from what I've heard Diamond makes Ingram look like saints.
    That's a method that the big bookstores are currently using to put the independent bookstores out of business; whenever a hot specialty book is about to come out, the big stores will order the entire print run, keep it for 4 weeks or so, and then return the remainder. This ensures that the big stores get the book a month before the independent stores get it, which is usually long enough to turn a hot book into a lukewarm one. I still can't believe that the FTC allowed Barnes & Noble's to acquire Ingram...
    Bart Lidofsky

  10. #10

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    Diamond is accepting both UPCs (the grocery store codes, for those looking on) and ISBNs (the bookstore code).

  11. #11
    Junior Member Jinxer's Avatar
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    It'll help retailers keep better track of inventory but selling more copies... I dunno, I don't see a flock of people going, 'I wasn't going to get this but the bar-code just screams buy me!'

  12. #12

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    A store that has better track of inventory will sell more copies because they will have copies to sell... they will know immediately when they run out of Schulz's Youth, and be able to order more copies and thus have them for customers to find.
    Although yes, I think there's a risk of front-cover barcodes detracting from sales to some extent.

  13. #13

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    I'm a bit thrown by this.

    Sure, I can see that books having barcodes might help perennial sellers. But I don't see any reason whatsoever to make them mandatory. If bar codes are all that -- and for most product, they're not, let's be honest -- then people who don't use them are only spiting themselves.

    So Steven is completely right.

    Oh, and here's another thing: POS barcodery is crap.

    I used to work in a bookstore that had individual clerks do the buying for the sections that they stocked. We all learned our section well, we all got our share of publisher freebies, we all got to feel like grownups who had a stake in our jobs.

    And then I worked in a store that had total POS, with one buyer, that treated the clerks like drones, who therefore acted like feckless clerks everywhere.

    Guess which one had the better stock?
    one of the highest principles of America is that we're a nation of people from different backgrounds living in equal dignity and mutual loyalty - Eboo Patel.

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    Heretic bartl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NatGertler View Post
    Diamond is accepting both UPCs (the grocery store codes, for those looking on) and ISBNs (the bookstore code).
    What about ISSN's? If they are not, then the small publisher is REALLY screwed.
    Bart Lidofsky

  15. #15
    Heretic bartl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NatGertler View Post
    A store that has better track of inventory will sell more copies because they will have copies to sell... they will know immediately when they run out of Schulz's Youth, and be able to order more copies and thus have them for customers to find.
    Although yes, I think there's a risk of front-cover barcodes detracting from sales to some extent.
    There's also the advantage of being able to store copies, and still pretty much ensure that there's at least one copy on the shelf. I've done both point of sale for bookstores and library programming (and am therefore familiar with both Books in Print and the Cumulative Book Index); libraries prefer ISSN for magazine collections, bookstores prefer treating everything as if it were ISBN's, whether it is or isn't.
    Bart Lidofsky

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