The Role of Wholesalers

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A small bookstore in Seattle receives a request from a customer for a new nonfiction book, issued by a small publisher in New England, which it does not stock. If the bookstore ordered the book directly from the publisher, it might take weeks for delivery. Rather than chance losing the sale, the store places an electronic order to the Ingram Book Company, the store's principal wholesaler, and receives a same-call confirmation of the book's availability. The order is processed at Ingram's California distribution center, and the book is shipped on the same day.

How can Ingram effect such service? This wholesaler stocks two hundred thousand different titles, from sixteen hundred different publishers, including the most frequently ordered backlist items. These books are apportioned to the wholesaler's six distribution centers across the country.

Ingram maintains a computerized ordering system, as well as a telephone ordering service. Its database contains information on one million titles, the stock status of the titles in its warehouses, and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of thousands of publishers.

And, since Ingram and other wholesalers are granted a slightly higher discount from the publishers than a bookstore receives, it can still make a profit while offering books to the stores at the same price they would pay if ordered directly from the publishers.

Ingram extends its service to include inventory recommendation programs, book reference and inventory management systems, and retail promotion planning.

Baker & Taylor is another large book wholesaler with similar capabilities. In fact, its inventory is larger than Ingram's, with a stock of some ten million books. Its database includes nearly 1.2 million different titles that are updated on an average of sixty-five thousand times each month. The company also has a powerful international system, which facilitates air and ocean freight shipments to the larger export markets. Its headquarters are in North Carolina, with foreign distribution centers in Sydney, Tokyo, and London.

Libraries and schools are serviced by special jobber organizations that are attuned to the needs of these institutions. A library can reduce its paperwork substantially by ordering single copies of many different titles, and receiving one invoice from the jobber for the entire transaction.
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