Users Group Meeting Makes for a 'Vibrant, Forthright Discussion'

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On Friday, May 30, at BookExpo America, over 40 current and potential users attended the hour-long Users Group meeting, where they heard about the latest features of, as well as planned enhancements to the product. Moderator Len Vlahos, director, told BTW it was a productive session. "We were delighted to see so many users at BookExpo America," he reported, "and we were pleased with the vibrant, forthright discussion we all had as a group."

ABA Board member Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Montana, attended the meeting. "It just continued to confirm my feelings on," he said. "Everyone that's involved [with the program] is very inventive about making the program very appealing to people. People were very pleased with []."

One of the key topics that Vlahos presented at the meeting was's new marketing relationship with Levenger, a catalog and Internet company that provides high-quality tools for reading and writing. He explained that all Web sites now feature a Levenger link and sales resulting from these links will earn participating booksellers an affiliate commission. Additionally, includes an affiliate link to, he noted.

The new Co-op Reimbursement Program generated "lots of enthusiasm" from attendees, Vlahos said. The program, which rolled out during BookExpo America, helps participating bookstores fund the cost of their Web sites through the use of newsletter co-op, and will help publishers sell and market books through independent bookstores. handles all the paperwork for participating bookstores, and, in turn, will charge bookstores 15 percent of the co-op dollars earned from the publishers. This fee is simply to cover administrative functions, Vlahos told attendees.

Vlahos also informed attendees that there was a new Optional Comment Box feature in the checkout process, which gives stores the ability to add an optional customer comment box to their shopping cart. This allows customers to send special instructions to the store -- about shipping, payment, alternatives titles, or anything else -- with any individual order. Participating bookstores can label the box in any way they like and use it for a variety of purposes.

Chapter One's Lawrence also noted that there was discussion of offering bookstores the option of adding DVDs and CDs to their Web site. "It's nice to keep being able to go back to our customers and say, 'Look what you can do now,'" he said. "[New features] give us another reason to [contact] our customers."

On Sunday, June 1, the last day of BookExpo America, the Users Council (BUC) met. The BUC is a group of booksellers that provide feedback and advice to the staff on the future development of At the mid-day two-hour meeting, the group discussed pursuing other relationships similar to the Levenger affiliation, but for products such as music and used books. Also discussed was how the USA Patriot Act impacts the business and "several other development issues," Vlahos noted.

The members of the BUC are: Sandy Torkildson of A Room of One's Own in Madison, Wisconsin; Michele Lewis of Afro-American Book Stop in New Orleans; Beth Puffer of Bank Street Books in New York City; Susan Novotny of Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, New York; Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida; Bob Sommer of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona; Neil Van Uum of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati; Clark Kepler of Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, California; Dave Kaverman of Million Story Book Company in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Tom Campbell of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina; Kerry Slattery of Skylight Books in Los Angeles; Matt Miller of The Tattered Cover in Denver; Chuck Robinson of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington; Donna Urey of White Birch Books in Conway, New Hampshire; and Ann Christophersen of Women & Children First in Chicago. --David Grogan