When Silicon Valley’s renowned Kepler’s Books almost folded in
August 2005, loyal patrons grieved, but no one in the book business was
surprised. Statistics from the American Booksellers Association
show that many bookstores operate in the red.
Large chains, Internet sales, and rising costs put big pressures on
bookstores’ bottom lines. Armed with the latest Sybase
technology, ComputerWorks of Chicago is helping book dealers nationwide
turn that situation around.
Real Time Inventory Data Boosts Sales, Builds Customer Loyalty
Using Sybase PocketBuilder, in 3 days ComputerWorks Lead Software
Engineer Chance created a wireless tool that makes sales and inventory
data available on the bookshop floor in real time.
“By writing only 10 lines of code in Sybase PocketBuilder, I built a
wireless inventory and sales tool that eliminates the need for a
dedicated bar code scanner,” says Chance. The software takes
physical inventory of books on hand using an industrial strength,
Windows mobile or Pocket PC based, personal digital assistant
(PDA). A wi-fi connection links the PDA to a Sybase Adaptive
Server Anywhere database.
Launched two years ago, the wireless module for ComputerWorks
Booklog—the leading point-of-sale and inventory management solution for
booksellers—has proved especially popular with college
bookstores. “Educational institutions place a high value on
innovation, and the wireless module is a great fit there,” says
Chance. “Customers have been clamoring to get our PDA software as
part of Booklog’s latest upgrade.”
Wireless Rollout Quick and Painless
“For Sybase PowerBuilder programmers like me, there is no learning
curve at all to work in PocketBuilder,” says Chance. “I got
PocketBuilder on a Friday night, and by Sunday, I had written three
real-time data-driven wireless applications for our flagship product.”
In place of a cumbersome multi-step scanning process or taking manual
inventory, clerks now use wireless Booklog to update records on their
PDA’s in real time. A second function speeds checkouts by tallying
purchases with the PDA’s built-in laser scanner before customers reach
a cash register. A third gives clerks instant information on
price and stock availability for any title by scanning a barcode with
PocketBuilder Boosts Developer Productivity
Chance attributes her productivity to PocketBuilder’s ease of use and
tight integration with Sybase PowerBuilder. (Desktop Booklog is
written in PowerBuilder.) She contrasts her weekend PocketBuilder
experience with many weeks she spent working on “trivial applications”
written in Visual C++.
“For writing wireless, data driven applications, PocketBuilder is the
best tool out there,” says Chance. “Built-in support for the
Symbol barcode scanner saved me an enormous amount of time that I
otherwise would have spent weeding through Symbol API’s.” (In
addition to supporting bar code scanners, PocketBuilder has native
hardware support for GPS receivers, cameras, and biometrics.)
Chance also praises PocketBuilder’s RAD programming environment and
database integration. “It doesn’t get any easier than this,” she
says. “Through the magic of PowerBuilder DataWindows, I can connect to
my enterprise database and bring information to mobile workers easily
Wireless Booklog Brings Booksellers Big Benefits
Wireless Booklog gives booksellers big benefits. A major
frustration and cause of lost sales in the book business has been the
disparity between computer inventory and titles actually on the shelf.
Standard industry practice is to take a physical store inventory
periodically using a Laser bar code scanner that records information in
an ASCII text file, which users upload to a database.
- Expense and infrequency of inventories, leading to inaccurate computer databases.
- Time-consuming multi-step processes to capture data, upload information in batches to a PC, and run a parsing algorithm.
- Latency from the time information is captured until a database is updated.
- A need to buy a dedicated (rather than multifunctional) device
with embedded software. The embedded software is inflexible, cannot
validate data, and is prone to file failures due to data entry errors.
Wireless Booklog solves all these problems, boosting bookstores’
bottom lines by streamlining sales and building customer satisfaction.
Powerful, Affordable, Inventory Management
Wireless Booklog builds on the success of its desktop predecessor,
which has long been the market leader. Installed in over 1400
college, trade, and retail stores worldwide, ComputerWork’s
Booklog requires minimal IT skills to deploy and use. The software
ComputerWorks Grows Booklog Line with More Sybase Tools
- An intuitive point-of-sale interface.
- Extensive back office controls that make purchasing, receiving, and returns a snap.
- 75 built-in reports.
- Seamless interfacing with other popular software.
In the fall of 2005, ComputerWorks launched a multi-site version of
Booklog. The software uses a Sybase Mobilink server connected to
a Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere database to synchronize data among
different store locations and among remote and consolidated
databases. As a result, booksellers can manage a group of stores
from one location using information that is almost real time.
ComputerWorks’ next step is to take Booklog to the Web using
Sybase’s DataWindow .NET technology. An outgrowth of
PowerBuilder, Sybase’s DataWindow .NET allows Chance to reuse 100% of
the Booklog code to create an online reporting tool that she expects
will be generally available in 2006.
ComputerWorks has been an all-Sybase shop since 1996. “Being a complete
Sybase shop has great advantages,” says Chance. “By porting
PowerBuilder DataWindows among different environments, we achieve cost
and time savings in application development that no one can beat.”