You know about the biggest web bookseller. But did you know that its sales represent less than 8 percent of the U.S. bookselling industry? That there are hundreds of other bookstores now competing online? And that many of them are powered by Thunderstone's Texis software?
A substantial group of these other bookstores are served by Texis customer Booksite.com, a company that provides a complete online solution for independent book dealers.
"Texis is one of the keys to our success," says Richard S. Harte, Booksite founder and president. "To get started, we knew we needed a database, a search engine, and a versatile application server environment. We found all that in one tightly integrated package with Texis. It enables us to maintain one master catalog, but modify it for each store."
The master Booksite database holds some two million records of books in print. The customization capability allows individual booksellers to build on that collection in many ways. They each may designate a unique subset of items to sell, and they set their own prices. They can add their own specialized inventory, such as used books. There's even a module for offering non-book merchandise.
The Booksite system also offers a variety of marketing features. An affiliate program allows each bookstore to attract business from a partner network. Booksellers can modify database entries with promotional features such as recommendations or reviews, or flag them as "on sale," "in stock," "quick ship" and so forth. There are specialized applications such as those for college textbooks or Christian music.
And of course there's the robust search capability! The Texis search engine produces separate results corresponding to each site's unique inventory. Depending on how a site is customized, users may search on various field combinations such as author, title, subject category, publisher, and International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
All Booksite services are run from a central facility, so that each bookstore needn't devote resources to hosting or other technical issues. "Texis's broad range of features, together with its ability to handle lots of simultaneous transactions, helps us keep costs low," Harte says. "Our prices start at only $160 a month per store. But for each customer, we can build on that to customize their database content and applications. That's important to independent booksellers, who succeed by being different from the competition."
Booksite also uses Texis as the basis of its shopping cart feature. Thunderstone customers are sometimes surprised that Texis can provide an e-commerce solution, as opposed to just a search engine. But Texis encompasses the same relational database standard used by most commerce systems. Texis is unique among databases in its ability to query the database content either as a search engine, or by the standard SQL language, or frequently, the two in combination!
Booksite's Texis-based system has been in place and growing for more than seven years, and now serves about 150 stores. It is, in fact, one of the earliest retail sites on the internet with a shopping cart feature.
What users comment on most is the speedy search, but what Booksite's managers appreciate most is the reliability and simplicity of administration. The database features make it easy to maintain data assembled from multiple sources; for example, book details incorporate data from five sources, each in a separate table. Yet, Harte says, "Booksite doesn't take a big team to maintain. Because of the unified Texis structure, it's actually a simple system from a technical point of view. It does a lot by taking advantage of Texis's built-in features."