In 2011, we worked with McNally Jackson Books, an independent bookseller in New York City, and the American Booksellers Association, to bridge the gap between the web and the printed page.
We’ve known for years that Drupal can publish to any device, but this was an opportunity for us to update the popular expression and take Drupal where it hadn’t been before.
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Independent Bookstores
With the rise of big-box bookstores, independent booksellers have had to innovate in order to remain a vibrant and relevant business in the publishing world. In this case, Independent Bookseller Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson Books partnered with a handful of other booksellers, the American Booksellers Association and On Demand Books (ODB) to create a cutting edge and novel approach that is revolutionizing the way booksellers do business.
On Demand Books has created the Espresso Book Machine, which takes a digital file and delivers a hardbound book in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee. It’s been called “an ATM for books” by Time Magazine and was named one of the best inventions of 2007.
This technology has dramatic potential for point of sale purchases, but it has even more potential for the online and out of print market, especially as more and more book publishers are releasing their catalog digitally. This publishing model can reduce the amount of inventory that a bookseller needs to keep in stock, as well as make books available that have been out of print for years.
The American Bookseller’s Association (ABA) has a large Drupal multisite that houses the sites for its members’ bookstores, one of which is McNally Jackson Books.
The first challenge was to create a module that would create functionality for participating member sites to have a book search engine that would allow their customers to search for a digital book from among an ever changing list of external sources, like Google Books, the Internet Archive or any of a number of commercial publishers.
The second challenge was to allow the customer to purchase that book in an intuitive way and send the order to the bookstore behind the scenes for printing and either pickup or shipping.
This was a project with many moving parts. We needed to coordinate our team and the three organizations and their development teams. From beginning to end, everyone worked together beautifully.
On Demand Books was negotiating with an ever-growing list of sources, so the source search had to be dynamic. Once the source search was completed and a list of results displayed, our Ubercart Print on Demand integration hit ODB’s API again to retrieve the chosen book’s details, where the information was converted into an Übercart product and added to the customer’s shopping cart “on the fly”. The resulting user experience was seamless.
We love working with forward thinking organizations who want to try new things, and we love it when organizations partner up to remain competitive. Not only was this a clever software solution, it was a creative organizational solution. Hats off to Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson Books, and other small businesses who are innovating in a competitive industry.