Thursday, June 29, 2006

Aaaarrrgh! Or, why I deeply regret that we don't SKU

Once upon a time we started our online bookstore. We started with one bookcase and gradually added many more. Without giving it much thought we automatically shelved our books alphabetically by author and divided them into five sections (fiction, children's, etc.). This is what normal bookstores do. It seemed sensible.

Aaarrrrgh!

Now I know better. An online bookstore is not a normal bookstore. Normal bookstores are designed this way to encourage buyers to browse. If you set up your online bookstore this way you will do lots of browsing.


If I was starting over again I would use a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) system. This means that you write a number inside the book, or on a sticker that you affix to the spine, after you list it. You file the books by this number. This saves times when you shelve the books. This saves time when looking for a sold book.

Not convinced? Please don't use a SKU system if the following activities sound enjoyable to you:

  • A book of poetry sells. Or at least the database says it's filed in the poetry section. You dutifully trot off to the poetry shelf but the book is not there. You sigh and go back to the computer. You look up the book on Amazon to see if there is more than one author or to see if maybe it's a children's book of poetry and therefore maybe you shelved it in the children's section instead or if there's a least a picture of the wretched book. It's an older book so Amazon doesn't have a picture of it, doesn't have a description of it, has nothing at all. Thanks, Amazon. You even do a Google search in desperation. That was a waste of time. You tread not very softly back to the bookcases - your children see that you are in the I Can't Find A Book zone and give you a wide berth, because if they don't give you a wide berth they know that you will find a way to blame them for the misshelved book - and scour the other sections, and many many minutes later find it shelved under the editor's name instead of the author's name (of course you didn't put the editor's name in your database). Oh the books you could've listed, the books you could've packed during the minutes you were looking for the poetry book.

  • You have before you a stack of books that need to be shelved, books that were listed several weeks days ago so they aren't fresh in your mind. The first book has three different authors. It's a work of non-fiction but it seems to be about religion and you vaguely wonder which category you chose for this book in your database. You could go check on the computer but you're feeling lazy and that would take time. You live on the edge and shelve it, assuming you picked the right author and the right category and you won't pay the price when it comes time to find the book when it sells. Wrong.

I suppose eventually I'll get around to switching our system to SKU. But because that requires spending hours or days unshelving and reshelving each and every book it's possible that the children's photos will get organized into albums or that the we will even put new insulation in the attic before that happens.

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3 Comments:

Blogger GuusjeM said...

I'm wishing I'd used a SKU system too..playing book, book, where's the book is not my idea of a fun game. I also wish I had shelves..my books are boxed....ah, something to plan for!

11:43 AM  
Blogger Amber Benton said...

We started just as you described, but I decided just a few weeks ago to convert to a SKU --- way to much browsing and head scratching going on (even a couple of cancelled sales and a mis-shipment!). Since we are relatively young and have just under a 1000 books in inventory it's not as overwhelming for us. I'm putting together a system very much like this one: http://books.fiziwig.com/shelving.html

7:26 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I started using SKU about a month or so ago, only to differentiate my smaller paperbacks from my larger books. Basically, my system is all alphabetical by title. I keep my mass market paperbacks alphabetical. I keep my larger books in stacks that are by the letter, and for some letters, there are three stacks. I wish I could think of a system that worked better, but so far, it works well for me.

4:34 PM  

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