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System and method for inventory and sale of distributed books

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Publication number
WO2001003047A1
WO2001003047A1 PCT/US2000/018646 US0018646W WO2001003047A1 WO 2001003047 A1 WO2001003047 A1 WO 2001003047A1 US 0018646 W US0018646 W US 0018646W WO 2001003047 A1 WO2001003047 A1 WO 2001003047A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
book
inventory
used
module
database
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/018646
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Stephen N. Hord
Sean P. Smith
John G. Macintyre, Iii
Original Assignee
Usedbooks.Com
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
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Publication date

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions

Abstract

A used book inventory and sales system and method provides a database of used books, and a network to link used bookstores to a central location, in effect creating a virtual bookstore having a centralized database of book holdings, but with the used books distributed over many locations. The database follows a hierarchical scheme that ensures consistent classification of used books by title authority and title instance while at the same time allowing each used book to be described separately (466). The database is maintained based on entries from the used bookstores (468), and is maintained up to date in near real time. The database includes special features such as cool books and topical books to help promote books of special interest.

Description

SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR INVENTORY AND SALE OF DISTRIBUTED BOOKS

Field of the Invention This invention is directed to a method and a system for inventorying and selling goods or merchandise that are distributed among many locations. In particular, the invention is a method and system for inventorying and selling used books using a telecommunications network. Background of the Invention Systems for cataloging items in inventory exist that may be based on a specific attribute or parameter that can be associated with the item. For example, a book catalog may be developed based on one or more of the books' ISBN, ISSN, Library of Congress Classification Number (LCCN) or similar parameter. However, the item, or book, may be unique in way that is not captured by the simple first hierarchal level parameter listed above. For example, a book may be one of several editions, may be in paperback or hardback, and may have a leather binding or a cloth binding, for example. To accurately describe the specific book, a second level of detail, or hierarchical level may be needed. However, current systems only provide for one level of detail when describing, or identifying a book. Book inventory systems also tend to be associated with a single bookstore, or with a group of related bookstores. Thus, no way exists to compare, or search the inventories of several independent bookstores or bookstore chains. Public and university libraries maintain limited access to a central book database. In reality, the library system may simply tap into a number of distributed databases . More importantly, the library system cannot maintain the book inventory up to date on a near real time basis. Finally, the library system does not include additional hierarchical levels of detail concerning books that are available at the libraries . Multiple versions of artistic books may be separately listed, but such separate versions are not organized in a manner that allows easy search, access and retrieval. The above book inventory systems also do not capture the level of detail that is required for a bookstore proprietor to accurately price a used book and to allow a customer to make an informed buying decision. Current used book inventory systems rely on the customer to visit a used bookstore, where the customer can view first hand, a used book that the customer may consider buying. Thus, no regional or national system exists for inventorying and selling used books. Summary of the Invention The invention is a system and a method for inventory and sale of items. In an embodiment, the items are used books that are sold through a number of used bookstores. The used bookstores are connected to a central location, or operations center, through a telecommunications network. The used bookstores may include processors, databases and high speed connections to the central location. The central location maintains a database of used books for sale through the used bookstores. The central location includes a server and a high speed connection. The server and the processor use an operating system having software modules that facilitate inventory management and sales transactions. Software modules are provided for capturing details about a specific book, for searching the database, for conducting in-store book sales, and for online book sales. The database follows a hierarchical scheme. A first level provides general information, and each successive level provides more detail related to a specific item. In an embodiment, a first level is a title authority and a second level is a title instance. A third level, or inventory item, relates to a specific copy of a book. The inventory item allows a bookstore proprietor to enter book condition information, price information, notes, and other information that may help sell the book. The operating system then computes a numerical score related to the book's condition. Brief Description of the Drawings The invention will be described with reference to the following figures, in which like numerals refer to like objects, and wherein: Figure la is a block diagram of a central inventory system that links dispersed merchandise inventory and sale points; Figure lb is an embodiment of a central inventory and sales system for used books; Figure 2a shows a central location associated with the system of Figure lb in detail; Figure 2b shows a bookstore associated with the system of Figure lb in more detail; Figure 2c is a logical diagram of a queue used with the bookstore of Figure 2b; Figure 3a is a logical representation of the database structure of the central location of Figure 2a; Figure 3b is a more detailed representation of the database structure of Figure 3a; Figure 3c is a specific example of entries in the database of Figure 3a; Figure 4 shows a relational nature of the database of Figure 3a; Figure 5 shows a block diagram of the software module used with the system of Figure lb; Figure 6a shows a block diagram of a book capture software module; Figure 6b shows a search screen for searching a central database; Figure 6c shows a search screen displaying search results from a details search; Figure 7a shows a block diagram of a book details module; Figure 7b shows a book details screen associated with the book details module of Figure 7a; Figure 7c shows an alternate book details screen; Figure 7d shows another book details screen associated with the book details module of Figure 7 a; Figure 7e shows yet another book details screen; Figure 8a shows a block diagram of a special features module; Figures 8b - 8d are examples of cool books displays; Figure 9a shows a block diagram of a inventory manager module; Figure 9b shows a inventory manager screen associated with the module of Figure 9a; Figure 10 shows a block diagram of a point of sale module; Figure 11a shows a block diagram of an online sales module; and Figure 1 lb shows an online sales screen associated with the module of Figure 10a. Detailed Description Many products, goods, wares, merchandise, and stock that are offered for sale at local stores can be managed and sold on a regional, national or international scale if an appropriate inventory and sale system and method exists to identify the products and to execute the sale. Figure la shows a system 1 that links distributed inventory points, or stores 5 through a network 3 to a central location 7. Users 9 may access the central location 7, using the network 3 , to obtain information regarding goods at one or more of the stores 5 , and to acquire goods from one or more of the stores 5. The stores 5 each maintain local inventories of goods on the system 1. The stores 5 may also offer the goods for sale. The stores 5 may be widely distributed. For example, one of the stores 5 may be in California and another of the stores 5 may be in New York. The stores 5 may share a common feature in that they maintain a related line of goods . In an embodiment, the stores 5 may be used bookstores and the goods maintained in inventory are used books . The stores 5 may inventory and sell other lines of goods. For example, the stores 5 could inventory and sell rare collectibles such as antique dolls . Alternatively, the stores 5 may use the system 1 only for an inventory function. For example, the stores 5 could be inventory control points for machinery repair parts. The stores 5 need not be under common control. For example, a number of used bookstores, all individually owned, may be linked together by the network 3. Alternatively, the stores 5 may be under common control, with the network 3 serving as a private communications network. The network 3 may be any telecommunications network. For example, the network 3 could be the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS), a local area network, a wireless communications network, and an Internet. Higher speed networks make for better inventory control and may be preferred. The stores 5 may connect to the network 3 using any standard connection device including a telephone modem and a wireless modem, for example. In an embodiment, the network 3 is the Internet, and the stores 5 connect to the Internet using a high speed connector. The central location 7 provides an inventory control function for the system 1. In particular, the central location 7 may maintain a composite inventory that includes the inventories maintained by all the stores 5 in the system 1. The central location 7 may also serve as a gateway to location of the stores 5 in the network 3. That is, the goods in inventory at each of the stores 5 may be searched by, bought by and shipped to a user 9 who accesses the central location 7. Each of the stores 5 may provide local inventory information to the central location 7 to enable national access to the goods in inventory in the network 3. The system 1 shown in Figure la may be used to inventory sell any product, particularly products for which an authority list exists. For example, the system 1 may be used to sell used compact disc recordings, used audio tape and used phonograph records. In the foregoing example, the system 1 may be used to provide detailed information about each item to be sold, including condition information. Likewise, the system 1 may be used to inventory and sell stamps and coins. The system 1 can integrate a number of independent stamp dealers, for example, to list stamps for sale, and to provide an online database of the stamps, including sales prices and stamp conditions , for example. The system may be used to inventory and sell other collectibles including comic books, sports trading cards, and similar cards and mementos, and antiques. The system 1 shown in Figure 1 a can also be used in any system that involves the inventory and sale of non-standard products . In this context, non-standard products refers to items that may differ slightly. For example, used car parts may be similar in many respects, but due to differences in wear and tear, may have different value. Once a product has been determined to be defectively manufactured or is determined to be used, the product usually can no longer be sold with standard inventory. The system 1 may be used to inventory, track and sell nearly any non-standard or used item. Generally, in one embodiment of the system 1 , the database is set-up with a unique identifier and then second, third or more identifying, criteria, or describing data, which are related on a hierarchical basis. Preferably, each level of data is at least related to the level above (i.e. third is related to second, fourth is related to third). Based on the data points, a calculation or score can be reached for each non-standard item or product entered into the database. This score may signify, for example, the desirability, condition, or value of the non-standard item. For example, this system can be utilized in a national or regional system to sell used car parts from junk car dealers throughout the country. Each dealer is equipped with a personal computer with a telecommunications connections to one or more regionally or centrally located computers. Each car part can be assigned a unique SKU number, barcode number, sequence number, Vehicle Identification Number, or other unique identifier. Upon entry of the unique identifier, a common name, a model, a version or second level identifier is entered such as "steering wheel." The second level identifier is related to the unique identifier by the database. This may than be followed by a third level identifier/criteria, identifying a non-standard product more specifically, such as "Chevrolet 1986 Camaro 2 door coupe standard," a fourth identifier "Model π," and, finally a fifth level identifier/criteria which is a descriptive or completed template for "working, cut on wheel, stain on horn pad, worn." Using this final level of information, the system can then generate a score for the wheel such as 75 to provide information on its desirability and value. Also, using the score and other information in the database, it is possible for the database to provide pricing history to assist the junk dealer in setting a price. Alternatively, the system can suggest a price. One method for suggesting a price is to perform performing a bell curve type analysis of past sales prices, choose a price that is at a certain standard deviation from center, and round. As noted above, books may also be sold using a system such as the system 1 depicted in Figure 1 a. Book inventory systems, such as Alibris and Abe, exist that may be used to provide book inventory functions in conjunction with the system 1. However, Alibris and Abe do not work well on a regional or national scale for maintaining an up-to-date inventory of used books. In particular, Ahbris and Abe do not have any mechanism to automatically up date the inventory, and to maintain the inventory on a real-time, or near real-time basis. Alibris and Abe do not provide a hierarchal database structure to ensure optimum efficiency for used book inventory and sales functions. Information regarding Alibris may be obtained at www.alibris.com. Information about Abe may be obtained at www.abebooks.com. Figure lb shows a system 10 for selling used books over a telecommunications network such as the Internet. A central location 8 includes a database 104 that maintains an inventory of books held at bookstores 6. A customer, or user, 9 may access the central location using standard devices such as a modem-equipped personal computer (not shown) . The customer 9 may originate an online sale using the personal computer. Alternatively, the customer 9 may originate a point of sale transaction by going to a particular bookstore 6 and either purchasing a book online through the central location 8, or by purchasing a book from the bookstore's inventory. The bookstore 6 may be operated by proprietors who also originate sales transactions to buy used books from other bookstores. The central location 8 and the bookstores 6 function as described above with respect to Figure 1 a. However, the bookstores 6 connect to the central location 8 over a network 12, such as the Internet, using high speed connectors, such as digital subscriber line DSL connectors 11. The use of DSL connectors 11 means that the central location 8 and the bookstores 6 may create a virtually persistent connection in the network 12. This virtually persistent connection allows rapid updating of inventory records at the central location 8 based on sales activities originated from the central location 8 (i.e., online sales) and sales activities originated at the bookstores 6 (i.e., point of sale transactions and online sales). In effect, a virtual bookstore may be created using the system 10 shown in Figure lb. Figure 2a shows the central location 8 in more detail. The central location 8 includes aserver 106, a high speed connection 108,adatabase 104, and a memory 102. Thedatabase 104 stores inventory information related to the goods distributed at the bookstores 6. That is, the database 104 maintains information regarding the local inventories maintained at each of the bookstores 6. The structure of the database 104 will be described in detail later. The server 106 allows the central location 8 to communicate with the bookstores 6 and the customers 9 shown in Figure lb. For example, the server 106 may be used to process inventory information received from the bookstores 6, and to provide the customer 9 with the ability to search the database 104 to identify a specific item, or good. The connection 108 receives inputs from the bookstores 6 and the customers 9. The connection 108 may be a DSL connection, for example. The connection 108 may also provide outgoing data to the customers 9 and the bookstores 6. The memory 102 stores operating instructions and software modules that are used to operate the central location 8 in support of the system 10. The software modules used at the central location 8 will be described in more detail later. Figure 2b shows a typical bookstore 6 in more detail. The bookstore 6 includes a memory 103 that stores program code and software modules that allow the bookstore 6 to operate in the system 10. A processor 107 uses the software resident in the memory 103 in order to maintain a local inventory and to distribute the goods to the customers 9. A database 105 containsthelocal inventoryofgoods inthebookstore6. A high speed connection 109 serves as an interface between the bookstore 6 and the central location 8. The connection 109 may be a DSL connection, for example. Finally, a queue 111 stores messages to be sent from the bookstore 6 to the central location 8. The processor 107 includes a display 113 that displays a graphical user interface (GUI) . The GUI may be used by the proprietors of the bookstores 6 to enter information, related to goods in inventory in the bookstores 6, into the database 105. The processor 107 may also be used to update the inventory at the central location 8, and to perform other functions needed to maintain the inventory and sales system 10. The processor 107 may be any standard personal computer or similar device. The display 113 may be any standard display including a CRT display or a flat panel display. The processor 107 and the display 113 may incorporate touch-screen technology so that data entries may be conveniently made using a displayed GUI. Alternatively, peripheral devices (not shown), such as a keyboard, a mouse and a track ball, for example, may be used to make entries. Figure 2c is a logical diagram of the queue 111 that may be used with the system 10. The queue 111 is shown temporarily storing messages 112[ - 112n. The messages 112x and 1124 are shown as sales messages. First messages, such as, the messages 112, and 1124, reflect sales transactions at a particular bookstore 6. Sales messages, such as the messages 112! and 1124, may be created automatically by the processor 107 when the proprietor makes a sale of a used book, and records the transaction. Once the sales messages 112! and 1124 are loaded in the queue 111 , the messages 112, and 1124 may be sent to the central location 8 to update the inventory represented by the database 104. Thus, with no additional actions required of the proprietor, the database 104 is updated to reflect a change in inventory due to book sales at remote bookstores such as the bookstores 6. The queue 111 may also store othermessages for transmission to the central location 8. For example, the queue 111 may store the message 1122, which represents a loss from inventory, such as by shoplifting. The queue 111 may also temporarily store second messages that represent the creation of inventory items at the bookstore 6. Each of the messages 1123 and 1125 - 112n represent one inventory item that has been created by the proprietor using the processor 107 and the software resident in the memory 103. The messages are all automatically generated and transmitted to the central location whenever the proprietor uses the processor 107 to record an event that changes the local inventory. Use of the queue 111 in this fashion provides near real-time updating of the database 104, without requiring a steady flow of messages. Use of the queue 111 allows the bookstore 6 to operate offline. That is, the bookstore 6 may create inventory update information when the database 104 is not operational, such as when the database 104 is shutdown for maintenance. The messages so created are stored in the queue 111, and may be transmitted to the central location 8 at a later time. Figure 3 a shows a logical structure of the database 104. A similar structure may be used for the database 105 at the bookstores 6. A first hierarchal data level 114 is used to maintain a broad description of a line of goods . A second hierarchal data level 116 is used to provide more specific instance of the line of goods maintained in the level 114. A third hierarchal level 118 is used to provide information related to a specific example of a good from the line of goods. Thus, the database 104 employs a hierarchal scheme to move from more general information about goods to more specific information, including details concerning a specific instance of a good. In the context of the system 10 of used bookstores 6 selling used books to local customers and to customers at remote locations, the hierarchal structure of the database 104 can be used to list a particular artistic work, instances of the artistic work, and specific items (or books) in inventory at the bookstores 6. The database 104 then becomes a powerful, standardized bibliographic database. The database 104 may be used to assimilate the inventories of used bookstores worldwide for clear, uniform presentation to walk-in and online customers 9. The database 104 supports up-to-the-minute inventory tracking for the bookstore and advanced, intuitive searching for the walk-in and online customer 9. Three hierarchal levels of the database 104 are shown in Figure 3b. The database 104 includes a title authority 120, 130 and 140 for title authorities 1 - N, respectively. Associated with each title authority 120, 130 and 140 may be one or more title instances. For example, associated with the title authority 120 are title instances 121, 131 and 141 for title instances 1 - N, respectively. Associated with each tide instance may be one or more inventory items. For example, associated with the title instance 121 are inventory items 123, 125 and 127. In the database 104, the title authority describes a book as an artistic or intellectual work. The title authority refers to basic information such as title, author, and subj ect matter. A unique title authority record, or title authority, exists for every variation that affects the substance of the book (translations or illustrated editions, for example). The title instance represents a specific form of the book, as defined by publisher, publishing date, and edition, for example. Any variation that does not alter the substance of the book (such as binding, number of pages, or alternate title, for example) is referenced through title instances. The inventory item represents an actual specific copy of a title instance that is in stock at a bookstore. The inventory item includes a description of the physical condition of the book, the price and other special notes that the customer 9 might want to know, such as the presence of an author's autograph. Figure 3c shows the entries in the database 104 for three variations of the book Great Expectations. In Figure 3c, a standard version of Great Expectations is represented by a title authority 150, an illustrated version by a title authority 160, and a version with additional materials is represented by a title authority 170. Associated with the standard version (title authority 150), are title instances 151 and 153. Associated with the title instance 151 are inventory items 155 and l57. The inventory item 155 may be in inventory in a used bookstore in California while the inventory item 157 may be in inventory in a used bookstore in New York, for example. As shown in Figure 3c, each title authority identifies a specific artistic version of Great Expectations and each title instance represents a particular printing or edition of Great Expectations. The inventory item identifies specific features related to a specific copy of a book. The inventory item will be described later in detail. The database 104 also may provide other relationships between specific copies of books and features that may be assigned to one or more books. Figure 4 is a further logical representation of the database 104, showing four related sections in the database 104. Inventory item section 201 represents a specific copy of a used book. Cool books section 203 stores entries that represent a qualifier that may be attached to the used book represented by the inventory item. Similarly, topical books section 205 and bargain basement section 207 represent database structures for entries having additional qualifiers that may be attached to the used book represented by the inventory item section 201. Thus, the combination of the sections 201 , 203 , 205 and 207 provide a relational structure that may be used in conjunction with the database 104. The cool books section 203, the topical books section 205 and the bargain basement section 207 will be described in more detail later. Finally, books listed in both the cool books section 203 and the topical books section 205 may have associated a JPEG or MPEG 2 file. The JPEG or MPEG 2 file may be an image showing an outer cover of a book or may be one or more pages from an interior of the book, for example. The MPEG 2 file could also be a review of the used book, and may include a moving video and an audio output. By incorporating such images, the database 104 becomes more like an actual used bookstore. When each of the sections 203 , 205 and 207 are populated with data related to the inventory items in the inventory item section 201 (e.g., a copy of Great Expectations), then the database 104 may be used to support a powerful search engine that can be used to identify specific copies of used books for sale to customers. The database 104 may initially be populated by data entry at the central location 8 shown in Figure lb. For example, the central location 8 may compile and maintain the bulk of the title authorities and title instances in the database 104. Information needed to compile the title authorities and title instances is available from a number of existing resources, such as the Library of Congress, for example. Using these information sources, the central location 8 may compile standardized title authorities and title instances for millions of published titles . The standardized entries in the database 104 enable the system 10 to provide accurate search and inventory processes, which may be used by the bookstores 6, and the walk-in and the and online customers 9. The title authorities and title instances may also be entered by proprietors at the bookstores 6. For example, if a title authority is established in the database 104, and a proprietor acquires a new title instance, then the proprietor may create a title instance, and associate the title instance with the title authority. The newly created title instance is subsequently transmitted to the central location 8. Once received at the central location 8, the newly created title instance may be checked for errors in format and content, and then may be added to the database 104. While the proprietors of bookstores 6 may create title instances, the most common use of the database 104 by the proprietors may be to conduct a search to determine a most appropriate title authority and title instance with which to associate an inventory item. To search the database 104, and to create an inventory item, the processor 107 , at the bookstore 6, may execute one or more software routines or modules that are stored on the memory 103. Collectively, the software modules form an operating system for inventory, management and sale of used books from the local bookstores 6 using the telecommunications network 12. Figure 5 is a high level block diagram of software modules that comprise an operating system 300 that is used with the system 10 to inventory, manage and sell used books. The operating system 300 includes a main menu 301 that may be used to access or begin navigation of a software module in the operating system 300. The operating system 300 also includes a book capture module 400, an inventory manager module 700, apoint of sale module 800, an online sale module 900, a bookstore-to-bookstore sale module 100, and an administrative module 1100. Any or all of the software modules may be stored in the memory 103 to be executed by the processor 107. Additional software modules may also be used with the operating system 300. Finally, the operating system 300 may be stored in the memory 102 to be executed by the server 106 at the central location 8. In particular, the software modules in the operating system 300 may be used at the central location 8 to allow the customers 9 and the proprietors to search the database 104. The customers 9 may search the database 104 to find a used book to buy. The proprietors may search the database 104 to determine which title authority and title instance are most appropriate for a specific copy of a book. Each of the above-listed software modules will be described in detail in the discussion that follows. Figure 6a shows the book capture module 400 in detail . The book capture module 400 may be used by bookstore proprietors and operators at the central location 8 to enter information related to a specific book (a book in hand), including title authority, title instance, and detailed information applicable to the specific book. Before tapping the market of online customers 9, the bookstores 6 may need to establish a complete and accurate inventory of each bookstore ' s holdings that can be translated into an online catalog, or database, such as the database 104. Because online customers may be unable to see the books they are buying, the database 104 should be as specific and detailed as possible.

In an alternative embodiment, a JPEG or MPEG 2 or similar image of a book associated with the inventory item may be displayed. The image may include a cover or jacket of the book, or one or more pages of the book. The customer 9 or proprietor may be able to "flip" pages in the book in order to determine the book' s condition, or to view other special features in the book such as an author' s inscription, for example. Thus, the system 10 may include features that create a virtual bookstore and that allow a customer to virtually browse the contents of the virtual bookstore. The operating system 300 simplifies and streamlines the task of creating an accurate and detailed database 104 through the book capture module 400, which provides a number of ways of creating detailed inventory records and supports a wide range of criteria for describing the condition of a book. The book capture module 400 also minimizes the need for redundant data entry, and standardizes inventory records to allow easy and intuitive searching. The book capture module 400 generates an inventory of books by creating an inventory item for a book using standardized title authority and tide instance information. The book capture module 400 also provides a systematic method of recording the details of a book' s condition. The book capture module 400 includes a search module 410, a title authority module 420, a title instance module 430, an inventory item module 440, a generic module 450, a book details module 460, and a special features module 490. The search module includes a barcode search module 411 , a number search module 413 and a details search module 415. Using the book capture module 400, the proprietor may conduct a title instance search for a particular book (a book in hand) in order to create and register and inventory item in the database 104. A title instance search begins by accessing a graphical user interface, or search screen 412 shown in Figure 6b. The search screen includes a book identification window 414, a search results window 416, and a task bar 418. The book identification window includes buttons 417-419 for selecting either the barcode search module 411 , the number search module 413 or the details search module 415, respectively, and a find button 422. The barcode search module 411 provides one way to look up title information in the database 104. A book may include a barcode label, which is often affixed to the book' s dust jacket or cover. Alternatively, the barcode may be repeated on a page in the book. Scanning the book's barcode provides a quick and precise determination of a title instance. In operation, a proprietor would access the barcode search module 411 from the search module 410, and then, using a standard scanning device, read the barcode information into the processor 107. The processor 107 will then provide a message to the central location 8, which will use the barcode information to search the database 104. If the barcode information matches information stored in the database 104, the server 106 will return a title authority and title instance, corresponding to the barcode information, to the processor 107. A successful barcode search should result in only one title instance match. The proprietor may then click on the result to display a book details screen, where the title instance information can be viewed, and where the item inventory information can be entered. Figure 6b shows a graphical user interface 412, or search screen that shows the results of a barcode search resulting in the title instance f or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . The proprietor may confirm that the displayed title instance corresponds to the book to be inventoried before creating the item inventory. When the proprietor initiates a transaction, or otherwise uses the operating system 300 software, the transaction may be recorded in the database 104. For example, if the proprietor creates an inventory item, or sells a book represented by an inventory item, then an appropriate entry automatically may be made in the database 104. To ensure prompt updating of the database 104, messages that carry the details of such transactions may be momentarily stored in the queue 111 associated with the bookstore's processor 107 (see Figures 2b and 2c). When a sufficient number of such messages are stored in the queue 111 , or when a specified time has elapsed, then a transmission from the bookstore 106 to the remote location 8 may occur. Carrier sense multiple access with collision detection, or similar technology, may be used in conjunction with transmission of the messages . Alternatively, the server 106 may periodically query the bookstores 6 to determine if there are any messages in the queues 111 for transmission. Many books will not have a barcode, either because the barcode was printed only on the dust cover, and the dust cover is missing, or the book was printed without a barcode, for example. In these cases, another type of search may be required. The number search module 413 supports searches using one or more of the common book identification number system including ISBN, ISSN and Library of Congress Classification Number (LCCN), and other product numbering systems including Universal Product Code (UPC) and similar systems. The search begins when a proprietor manually enters a classification number and presses the find button 422 to begin searching. If more than one title instance is returned, the proprietor selects the title instance that most closely matches the book in hand. Selecting a title instance from the search results window of the search screen causes the processor 107 to display a book details graphical user interface, or screen, which will be described later in detail. If the barcode search or the number search are not available, or fail to find the desired title instance, the details search module 415 allows a more comprehensive search of the database 104. The details search module 415 is activated by selecting and operating the details button 419 on the search screen 412. When the details button 419 is selected, a data input window 421 is activated. The data input window 421 allows the proprietor to enter information related to the book in hand, including the author, book title, publisher, edition and printing. A find button 422 is then used to execute a search using the data entered in the data input window 421. Figure 6c shows the search screen 412 used to search for a book by author "twain" with a title "finn." The search results are shown in the search results window 416. As shown in Figure 6c, the details search may yield multiple results. The proprietor selects the title instance that most closely matches the book in hand. In this search, 73 items were found. The search results window 416 displays tide authorities using the "stacked books" icon and displays title instances using the ' 'open book" icon. Additional search results may be displayed by using a vertical slide bar in the search results window 416. Title instances related to a particular title authority are displayed when the particular title authority is selected. In the example shown in Figure 6c, the title authority "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was selected, resulting in the display of two title instances, namely "Cambridge Book Co. Bronxville, N. Y." and "Bobbs- Merrill IndianapoUs.' ' Additional information related to a specific tide authority or tide instance may be displayed by using a horizontal slide bar in the search results window 416. To access the book details screen, a desired title instance is selected. Operation of a cancel button on the details screen returns the search routine to the search screen 412. The search module 410 allows several searches to be run simultaneously. The results of multiple searches may be displayed sequentially in the search results window 416. Sequential searches can save time because the searches begin immediately while additional search parameters are entered. As noted above, selecting a title instance causes the book capture module 400 to transition to the book details module 460. The book details module 460 is shown in more detail in Figure 7a. A book details screen 466 is shown in Figure 7b. The book details module 460 includes a data module 461, a book parameters module 462, a price module 463, a defects module 464 and a book score module 465. Using these modules, the proprietor may create an inventory item, which corresponds to the book in hand, and have the inventory item stored in the data base 104, in association with a particular title instance and title authority. The data module 461 is used to display information from the tide instance. As shown in Figure 7b, the title instance may include the title, author, number of pages, series, subject, LCCN and ISBN, publisher, publication date and edition, for example. The data module 461 will also display arrow buttons, and an indication of the number of books retrieved if more than one title instance is displayed for a particular tide authority. The book parameters module 462 provides tabs for selecting qualities to evaluate for a particular book. The tabs include template, pricing, binding, defects, notes and custom. These tabs will be described in detail later. The price module 463 displays one or more prices: an in store price that the proprietor may use for sales at the bookstore 6, and an online, or web price that is determined for sales that originate at the central location 8. The online price may include the cost of shipping the used book from the bookstore 6 to the customer 9. The defects module 464 allows the proprietor to enter details about defects that the book in hand may have. Finally, the score module 465 computes an overall score for the book in hand, based on information related to the condition of the book. In Figure 7b, the book details screen 466 includes a first data window 468 , a book parameter window 470, a second data window 480 and a defects window 486. The first data window 468 displays title instance data associated with the selected title instance. The book parameter window provides a number of tabs that the proprietor may use to enter data related to the book in hand. The tabs include a template tab 471 , a pricing tab 472, a binding tab 473 , a defects tab 474, a notes tab 475 and a custom tab 476. The second data window 480 displays store 481 and web 482 prices, overall book condition 483 and binding 484. The defects window 486 provides a text box 487 for entering specific comments regarding the book in hand. Finally, the defects window 486 provides a score window 488 that shows a numerical value between 1 and 101, which is a measure of the condition of the book in hand, based on the data entered by the proprietor in the book details screen 466. The numeric score may be converted to a human readable scale of New, Very Fine, Fine, Very Good, Good, Fair, Reader's Copy and Incomplete, for example. Also in Figure 7b, the binding tab 473 has not been used to select a binding type for display in the binding window 484. However, binding type may be chosen as one of hardback, leather, paperback, loose or other. Figure 7c shows another embodiment of a book details screen 466'. In Figure 7c, the book details screen 466' includes additional features for describing type of print (e.g., large, braille) and primary language. Buttons are provided for selecting the title authority and title instance, for example.. Accurately evaluating and specifying the book' s condition is essential to online success because online customers 9 may be unable to see the books they are buying. The description of a book' s condition should to be as specific and detailed as possible in order to help the customer 9 make the appropriate buying decision. All books may given an overall rating or descriptive score of one of New, Very Fine, Fine, Very Good, Good, Fair, Reader's Copy, or Incomplete. As a proprietor enters specific defects for a book, the processor 106 calculates a defect score that serves as a guide for determining the overall condition of the book. Books begin with a defect score of 100; each defect entered affects the score based on its severity. (A new book has a score of 101 , which presumes no defects and rates the new book higher than any used book.) When all defects are entered, the book' s score determines a suggested rating for the book. A proprietor may accept the suggested rating, or override the calculated score to ensure that the book is given an accurate rating. A defect is any attribute that distinguishes a book from its original, or new, condition. An author' s inscription, for example — which may be objectively treated as a defect — is an example of an attribute that may increase a book' s value. The book' s rating reflects its condition, not its value, which is reflected by the book's price. The book price may be a required field. There are separate fields for the store price and the online, or web price. The store price the proprietor enters will appear on the book' s inventory label and will be recalled by the system 10 at the point of sale. The online price appears with the book' s listing in the database 104 and is the price the central location 8 will charge an online customer 9 who orders the book. In an embodiment, when the proprietor enters a store price, that value is automatically entered in the online, or web, price field as well. To help the proprietor make pricing determinations, a book' s price history can be reviewed by clicking the pricing tab 472. The database 104 tracks information such as a book' s last selling price (both in the store and online), the book' s average price, and the book's current wholesale price. Figure 7b also shows that the defects tab 474 has been selected. The defects tab 474, when selected, displays a defects category 477 and a defects attributes section 478, which may include one or more predefine defects attributes. The defects category 477 allows the proprietor to specify a location of a defect among the book' s pages, j acket or the cover. Book defects cover general attributes as well as defects related to the binding and cover. Page defects describe the condition of the book' s text and pages . Jacket defects are specific to the dust j acket. Selecting a particular defects category, or location, may determine the predefined defect attributes that are displayed in the defects attributes section 478. The notes tab 475 allows the proprietor to enter text that provides additional explanation of the book' s condition. This information can give further details about a defect, or point out items of interest, such as "signed by the author" or "very rare edition." The custom tab 476 allows the proprietor to enter some store-specific book details not related to condition, such as shelf location or the price the proprietor paid for the book. This information is meant to maximize the usefulness of local inventory records. In an embodiment, proprietors may choose to have the custom attributes appear or not appear in the database 104 at the central location 8. Once the proprietor has entered all relevant book details (tide instance, price, binding, defects, condition, notes, custom attributes), the information will be displayed in the book' s database 104 listing, except possibly for custom attributes. If the information is all correct, the proprietor may click an add book button at the top of the screen to accept the book to the local inventory. When the proprietor completes an inventory item and successfully adds the record to the local inventory database by clicking on the add book button, an inventory label is printed that displays the book' s tide, inventory identification, and store price. The inventory label also includes a barcode that allows for quick recall of the inventory item record when the inventory label is scanned. The inventory label can be affixed to an index card and placed inside the book, or it can be affixed directly onto the book. The book can then be shelved — its listing automatically has been added to the database 104. The proprietor can use predefined templates to apply a set of common conditions to a book in one step. Figure 7d shows a book details screen 466 displaying a number of templates. The templates can contain any combination of attributes, including price, binding, defects, condition, and notes . When a template is applied to an inventory item, all the attributes the template contains are automatically added to the inventory item. Templates are applied through the templates tab 471 , and may be applied before any other details are entered (otherwise they may override previously entered data) . After a template has been applied, more details can be added if needed. Figure 7e shows yet another book details screen. A number of basic templates exist that identify a binding and condition: Hardback (Very Fine) and Softback (Good), for example. The templates do not apply any specific defects. The proprietor may use a new template to specify a new book. When the new template is applied, the book's defect score may be automatically set to 101 (the score for a new book) and the defects tab 474 may be disabled, because a new book should not have any defects. A new book that has a defect may be treated as a used book. Proprietors are not limited to the pre-defined condition templates and can create custom templates that reflect any combination of proprietor-defined attributes. For example, a proprietor having a number of older paperbacks that are in reasonably good condition could define a template that automatically enters the binding paperback, the defects light fading and medium bumping (both common to used paperbacks), the rating good, and a default price for used paperbacks. To create a custom template, the proprietor selects a create template button on the main menu 301 and enters all the desired defects and details. The processor 107 prompts the proprietor to give the template a meaningful name that lets the proprietor quickly identify the template on the template tab 471. Once a template is created, all the conditions it contains can be applied to a book with a single click. Sometimes a proprietor may need to create an inventory item "on the fly" without taking the time to search for title authority and title instance records. For example, the proprietor might want to quickly enter books that do not require a lot of detailed information, such as low-end paperbacks . Alternatively, the proprietor may not have found a title instance for the book in hand and the proprietor does not want to take the time to create a title instance. In these cases, the proprietor may create a generic record that lets the proprietor manually enter an inventory item without attaching the inventory item to a title instance. To add a generic inventory record, the proprietor selects a "generic button" (see Figure 6c) at the top of the book details screen 466. A blank book details screen 466 opens and the proprietor can type in whatever information is available on the book (the tide may be required; the other fields may be optional) . The proprietor may then enter book details as usual or apply a condition template to the record. Using generic records in conjunction with condition templates provides a very fast method for entering large numbers of inventory items in the database 104. The tide instance and tide authority search may be used by proprietors to start the book capture process. The result will be an inventory item that resides in the database 104. However, some proprietors may want to call special attention to specific books offered for sale in their bookstores 6. The database 104 accommodates these proprietors by providing additional data features such as the cool books , topical books and bargain basement books data sections shown in Figure 4. To enter data in the database structures, the special features module 490 may be used. Figure 8a shows the special features module 490. Included in the special features module 490 are a cool books modules 501 , a topical books module 511 , a bargain basement module 521, and an other features module 531. The cool books module 501 allows proprietors to quickly market a portion of their inventory to thousands of potential book buyers every day. The cool books module 501 provides an online version of a storefront display where bookstores have traditionally offered a changing display of their most attractive items for sale. The storefront displays serve a dual purpose: they help entice potential customers into the store by piquing their interest; and they help sell books immediately by showing a few books to potential buyers that they might have overlooked on the shelves or not even knew existed. Customers 9 who access the database 104 may be greeted with a changing display on a main page of a web site of three to five books that have been selected by individual bookstores, for example. The list of cool book selections visible to the customers 9 may cycle regularly through a queue of selections so customers will see different books during different visits to the central location 8. The customers 9 can purchase the book immediately, look at the expanded record (i.e. , the inventory item) for the book, or bookmark the book for recall during a future visit. By providing high-profile visibility to a select number of books, the cool books module 501 may help entice further exploration of the database 104 and may also help the bookstores 6 make immediate sales of books that might have been overlooked or unknown by the customers 9. Each cool books entry in the database 104 may include a headline, basic information about the book, such as binding, condition and price, and a brief, 50-75 word summary of why the book is "cool." Bookstore proprietors may select books they want to be in the cool book queue. A JPEG or MPEG 2 image may also be provided with the cool books. Proprietors may use the cool books module 501 to focus attention on the special or unusual books that have a high probabihty of grabbing the attention of the customers 9. First editions, signed editions, one-of-a-kind items, and high quality books are the types of books that may be at their best in the cool books data section 203 shown in Figure 4, where the books will get the attention that their premium price demands. Finally, the cool books entries may stand alone. That is, the cool books selections may be unrelated to any theme or specific subj ect that the proprietor had in mind when selecting them. The cool books selections from one bookstore 6 may appear at random with selections provided by other bookstores 6. To get a book into the cool books data section 203 , the bookstores 6 may first select appropriate book and create a full, non-generic inventory item for the book. Next, the cool books checkbox on the search screen 412 may be checked, and the proprietor may write the summary of why the book is cool, using the inventory item notes field. Then, the proprietor may write a headline for the book. By checking the cool books checkbox, and by supplying the requisite data, the proprietor creates a cool books display. Although customers 9 will not know which bookstore is offering the book for sale, each cool books entry is tied directly to the specific inventory item entered by a proprietor for the book in the database 104. Figures 8b - 8d provide examples of cool books 215 entered in to the database section 203. Taking Figure 8b for example, a cool books entry 215 includes a headliner 217, a biographical data section218 anda summary 219. In Figure 8d, the cool books entry 215 is shown with a JPEG/MPEG 2 module 209 ' that displays either or both a JPEG image or an MPEG 2 image. Figure 8a also shows a topical books module 511. The topical books module may be used to link a specific book or book collections by a theme or subject. Proprietors and central location operators my select the books to be linked to the subject. Book collections can be based on sub-topics, genres, book types or similar book categories. For example, a topical books selection related to the grounding of the New Carissa off the coast of Oregon in February 1999 might be accompanied by Usts such as : ecology and the environment; shipping and transport; and shipwrecks and marine salvage. A seasonal theme related to Independence Day could include: The Revolutionary War, outdoor cooking and cookbooks; and poUtics and government. Each topical books entry in the database 104 may be a simple title and author listing that links to a pre-built database search. After a customer 9 chooses a link, inventory items that match the search are returned for potential purchase and include links to full inventory items. A book may be included in a topical books list by the proprietor or central location operator first selecting a book that is appropriate for a topic. Next, the proprietor creates an inventory item if one does not aheady exist. Then, the proprietor attaches an appropriate topic keyword to the inventory item. Figure 8a also illustrates a bargain basement module 521. The bargain basement module 521 is used to create an entry in the bargain basement database section 207 in the database 104. A book may be designated as a bargain basement book based on one or more criteria. For example, the bargain basement designation may be based on book price and book condition. In this example, a maximum book price may be established along with a minimum book condition. The maximum book price could be $8. The maximum book price may also include the cost of shipping to the customer 9. The minimum book condition could be Good. Any book meeting the above price and condition criteria may be designated as a bargain basement book, and may then include an entry in the bargain basement database section 207. The designated book may also be provided with an inventory item in the database 104. A proprietor can review and modify existing inventory records by using the book inventory manager module 700 shown in Figure 5. The inventory manager module 700 may be accessed from the main menu 301. The inventory manager module 700 is shown in more detail in Figure 9a. The inventory manager module 700 includes a search module 710 and a modify entry module 720. Figure 9b shows a inventory manager screen 750 that is used in conjunction with the inventory manager module 700 to allow a proprietor, for example, to review and modify existing inventory items. The screen 750 includes a search parameters window 751 , a find button 753, a search results window 755 and a tool bar 757. Using the search parameters window 751 , a proprietor may input data related to a specific book, or a number of books to be identified in the database 104. The proprietor then initiates a search of the database 104 by operating the find button 753. The search results may be displayed in the search results window 755. The search results include tide, author, pubUsher, date of pubUcation and ontine price. If more than one book matching the parameters set in the search parameters window 751 is retrieved, the search results window may display all the results. To review a specific book from the books Usted in the search results window 755, the proprietor selects the desired book from the books listed. The proprietor may indicate a selection by using a cursor and a peripheral device such as a mouse or keyboard to initiate the selection. Alternatively, the proprietor, using touch screen technology, may indicate a choice by touching the on-screen listing corresponding to the desired book. Selecting an inventory item from the search results window 755 opens the book details window 466 (see Figure 7a). Using the book details window, the proprietor may review all the information contained in the inventory item. The proprietor may make changes to the inventory item, such as changing the price or condition, or adding a defect or a note. However, the tide instance information cannot be changed from an existing inventory item. If the inventory item has been created from an incorrect title instance, then the inventory item may be deleted and rebuilt using the book capture module 400. The tables that follow provide examples of parameters, such as book defects, defect locations, book conditions, and other parameters that may be used to describe a used book. The proprietor may use the parameters when initiaUy building the inventory item using the book capture module 400, or when reviewing or modifying the entries in an inventory record. Used books may be given an overall rating based on the condition of the book. Examples of book conditions are presented in table 1.

Table 1. Book Condition Ratings New a book that has never been read or used — a used book cannot, under any circumstances, be given a new rating.

Very Fine a book in pristine condition. This is the highest rating a used book can receive, and is rarely encountered.

Fine a book in near-pristine condition and has no major defects, but is distinguishable from a new book by signs of having been read. The spine may be broken-in or the jacket lightly worn.

Very Good a book that shows some signs of wear, but is essentially undamaged and still in excellent condition.

Good a book that shows common signs of wear and perhaps some light damage from handling, but is otherwise stiU in acceptable condition.

The majority of used books fall into this category.

Fair a book that is damaged or excessively worn. The cover or pages may be torn, faded, or discolored; the binding may be a little loose.

Reader's Copy carries no warranty for condition. Typically refers to a readable book in poor condition: The text exists in its entirety, but the book is in bad shape.

Incomplete a book that is missing pages and cannot be read in its entirety.

Book defects may be described with an identifier and two modifiers as shown in table 2. Table 3 shows defect severity parameters. Table 4 shows defect locations. Finally, table 5 provides defect definitions.

Table 2. Book Defect Terminology

Defect Severity Location

Rubbing Light Front Cover Chipping Small Spine

Tear Repaired Title Page

Table 3. Defect Severity Parameters

Very light Very small Very short Repaired

Light Small Short

Medium Large Long

Heavy Very large Very long

Very Heavy

Table 4. Book Defect Locations

Title page Front cover Spine Jacket front

Forward pages Back cover Hinge top Jacket back

Regular pages Inside front cover Hinge bottom Jacket front fold

Illustration pages Inside back cover Binding Jacket back fold Picture pages

Index pages Edge of pages

Table 5. Book Condition Terms blistering Blistering refers to the presence of bumps or bulges on the cover of a book. bookplate A bookplate (or ex-libris) is a label usually affixed to the inside front cover a book by the owner. bumping Bumping typically occurs along the edges of a book, when the comers become worn, bent, or rounded. chipping/nicking A chip or nick is a defect usually found on the cover of a book where part of the cover has been scuffed or torn away. cracked This term is used to note cracks in the cover or down the spine of a book. ex-library A book that has been withdrawn from a library collection is noted as an ex-library book, regardless of its physical condition. fading This term is used to describe a book whose cover or pages have faded, usually due to time or exposure to sunlight. folded Folded is used to describe a bend or crease in the book's cover or pages. It also applies to pages that have been "dog-eared." foxing A term applied to brownish-yellow spots caused by chemical reaction over time. fraying Fraying indicates that the edges of a book' s cover or binding have become worn and frayed (compare to bumping). highlight This term is used to note when passages of a book have been marked with a colored highlight pen. inscription This term is used to note an autograph and/or message written in the book — typically on the inside cover or title page. It is important to note whether the inscription is in pen or pencil. Even if the book has been signed by the author (which might increase the book' s value), inscriptions are always treated as defects. The nature of an inscription may be clarified through comments. loose Loose pages or hinges on a book are noted with this term. mildew This term refers to the presence of mold or mildew on the cover or pages of a book. missing jacket If the book was issued with a dust jacket, the condition of the jacket should be noted. This term is used when the jacket is missing altogether. pitting Pitting refers to dents or pocks on the surface of a book. re-bound A book that has been sent to a bindery for new binding is noted as rebound. repaired This is actually a severity rating, not a defect. It is used to note when a defect has been repaired, as with loose binding repaired or torn cover repaired. rubbing Rubbing refers to the chafing or scuffing of a book' s cover due to excessive handling. The more uniform damage caused by time and exposure is referenced with the term fading. scratched This term is used to note scratches or abrasions, typicaUy found on the covers of hardbound books or along the edge of the pages. soiled This is a catch-all term to reference sticky or grimy books. If a book is clean but stained by previous soiling, the term staining is used. split This term describes a split in the book's spine, binding, or cover

(compare to cracked). spotting Spotting refers to a spotty fading or staining, usuaUy caused by water damage or mildew. staining Staining is a discoloration of the book or its pages caused by damage, as with water stains. Discoloration caused by time and exposure is usually noted as foxing or fading. stamped An ink stamp, usually found on the inside front cover, title page, or edge of a book, is noted with this term. sticker/residue This term describes the presence of a sticker or the remnants of sticker adhesive (as with a price tag or bookstore label). Usually this defect occurs on the cover of the book. tear A tear in the cover, j acket, or pages of a book is noted with this term. tipped This term refers to a page that has been inserted into a book after publication . Pages that have been tipped in are usually affixed with tape or glue, and are often intended to supplement the text. underlining If passages of the text have been underlined, this term is used to note the defect. Whether the underlining was done in pen, pencil, or both is also specified. warping Warping refers to a bending or rippling of a book' s cover and pages . water damage This term refers to the general staining, bloating, and warping of a book caused by water damage. wrinkled This term is used to describe the wrinkling of a book's jacket or pages due to handUng. Wrinkles caused by exposure to water or sunlight are usually referred to as warping. yellowing Yellowing (sometimes called "shadowing") refers to a yellowish- brown discoloration along the edge of a book' s pages . This is an age- related defect common to older books . Discoloration due to damage is called staining. Figure 10isablockdiagramofthepointofsale(POS)module800. ThePOS module 800 works with the database 104 built with the book capture module 400 to provide an integrated solution to selling books to walk-in, or in-store customers 9. In addition, the POS module 800 works with many other products . Although selling a book that already has an inventory item is the fastest and easiest method of selling an in-store item, books or other products may be sold "on the fly" without an inventory item. On the fly sales using the POS module 800 let the proprietor, using the operating system 300 shown in Figure 5 , get up and running immediately. The on the fly sales also provide a way to sell products (books and other items) that may never appear in the database 104. Referring to Figure 10, a basic sale module 810 provides the software routines that allow the proprietor to scan a barcode included on an inventory label to call up a specific inventory item from the database 104. Alternatively, the inventory item is retrieved from the bookstore's local database 105. The basic sale module 810 then accepts a sale transaction type, for example, cash, check or credit card. If a credit card sale is chosen, the basic sale module 810 provides a prompt to enter a credit card number. Finally, a sale routine executes the sale, and initiates an update to the databases 104 and 105. A void sale module 820 allows the proprietor to void a sale before execution of the sale. A cancel routine is also available to cancel the most recent step in the basic sale routine. A discount sale module 830 allows the proprietor to discount a sale at any time during the basic sale routine. A customer discount routine and an employee discount routine may be provided. A standard discount may be applied when using the discount sale module 830. Alternatively, the proprietor may enter a specific amount to discount the sale. The final sales price, with discount, may be registered for the inventory item in the database 104. A tax exempt module 840 may be used for a tax exempt customer. When selected, the tax exempt module 840 may prompt the proprietor to enter the tax-exempt customer' s tax ID number, and then continue with the sale. A taxable button allows the proprietor to turn off the tax exempt sale and to return to a regular, taxable sale. A shipping module 850 allows the proprietor to add the cost of shipping to an address specified by the customer 9. A multiple sales module 860 may be used if multiple copies of an inventory item are to be sold. However, since most inventory items will be unique, the multiple sales module 860 may not be frequently used. An override price module 870 may be used to override the price presented with the inventory item. The proprietor will then be prompted to enter a new sale price. The new sales price may then be stored with the sales record for the inventory item in the database 104. A store credit module 880 may be used to apply a store credit from, for example, a previous return, to a current used book sale . The store credit module may provide a prompt to enter a store credit tracking number. A return module 890 may be used to credit returns and to reinstate an inventory item in the database 104. The return module 890 allows the proprietor to scan an inventory label, or barcode that may be affixed to the used book to determine if an inventory item existed. If such an inventory item existed, the proprietor may reuse the inventory item. Otherwise, the proprietor may create a new inventory item using the book capture module 400 described above. Finally, a buying module aUows the proprietor to automate the purchase of a used book from a customer 9. If the used book includes a barcode, the proprietor may scan the barcode to identify a title instance in the database 104. The proprietor may then create a new inventory item. The proprietor may also use the tide instance to determine a selling price of used books of similar type and condition. The proprietor may pay in cash for the used book, or may provide the customer 9 with a store credit. To sell books or other items to an in-store customer 9, the proprietor first opens the operating system 300 to the POS module 800, which is accessible from the main menu 301 or through a sales button at the top of one of the system screens. The used book inventory and sale system 10 shown in Figure Ibis useful for online sales of used books. Because the database 104 may be a regional, a national or an international database, the customer 9 is able to access the book listings of many independent used book stores, such as the bookstores 6. With access to the database 104, the customer 9 can conduct detailed searches for a specific book, or can browse the inventory items stored in the database 104. The online sales module 900 provides the customer 9 and the proprietor with the ability to search the database 104 and to conduct sales. Figure 1 la shows the software modules associated with the online sales module 900. The software modules shown in Figure 11a may be stored in the memory 103 at the bookstore 6 and in the memory 102 at the central location 8 (see Figures 2a and 2b). Using the processor 107 at the bookstore 6, the customer 9, or the proprietor, may initiate a search of the database 104 to identify books that may be of interest to the customer 9. That is, the proprietor may use the system 10, including the database 104, to identify a book from another bookstore 6 that may satisfy the customer' s desires. Alternatively, the customer 9 may connect to the central location 8 directiy, using a personal computer equipped with a modem or other communications interface. The customer 9 may then search the database 104 to identify books of interest. The online sales module 900 may also be used to purchase books from an online bookseller such as amazon.com, for example. As shown in Figure 11 a, the online sales module 900 includes an online search module 910, an online sort module 920, a cool books module 930, a topical books module 940, a bargain basement module 950, a book selection module 960 and a book sale module 970. Figure 11 b shows a search screen 912 that may be used with the search module 910. The search screen 912 includes a first search window 914 that may be used to search the database 104 based on a title or author name. A title field 924 may be used to enter an exact title of a desired book, or a shortened version of the title. Using a shortened version of the title may result in additional books being identified in a search result. An author field 926 may be used toenteran author'scompletename,oratruncatedversionoftheauthor'sname. Abarcode field 923 and a book identification number field 925 may also be used to search for the desired book. Also included in the first search window 914 is a topic field 928 that may be used to specify a topic that is of interest to the customer 9. Because the database 104 includes books that are linked to specified topic names, a search of the database 104 using one of the existing topic names should produce a search result Usting any inventory items in the database 104 that are linked to the selected topic name. A find button 942 may be used to begin the search. Finally, the first search window includes a cool books button 934 and a bargain basement books button 932. Activating the cool books button 934 will display a subset of the inventory items that are designated as cool books. The display may include only the cool books that are currently selected by the processor 106 on a random basis for display from the central location 8. The display will include only the cool books entries (and not the inventory item information) for the randomly selected cool books. The bargain basement button 932, once activated, will cause the current listing of bargain basement books to be displayed. The search screen 912 also includes a keyword, or free form, search window 916 having a keyword field 936 for entering keywords, a symbol section 938 that provides search operators such as a truncation operator, and a find button 942. The keyword search window 916 may be used in conjunction with the first search window 914. Search results are displayed in a search window 918. The search results may include icons designating the results as tide authorities, tide instances and inventory items. Finally, the search screen 912 includes a tool bar 922 having a sort button 944 and a purchase button 946. The sort button 944 may activate a pull-down menu that lists possible sort routines. The purchase button 946 may activate a sales module that may be used to conclude a sale of the book, including automatically updating the database 104 to indicate sale of an inventory item and to remove the inventory item from the database 104. A proprietor of a bookstore 6 may also use the system 10 to identify used books that the proprietor may wish to purchase. Such books may be purchased to fill the bookstore' s inventory, or may be purchased in response to a specific request of a customer 9. The bookstore-to-bookstore module 1000 includes the necessary software routines to search the database 104 and to present the search results. The search routine and search results routines are similar to those associated with the online sale module 900. Using the module 1000, a proprietor may search the database 104 to identify a book that is held at another bookstore 6. The central location 8 may facUitate the sale of such a book by arranging for shipping and payment. The desired used book may then be shipped directly from one bookstore 6 to the other bookstore 6. The module 1000 may also be used in conjunction with large, online bookseUers, such as amazon.com, to sell books to the customers 9, or to the bookstores 6. The above described used book inventory and sales system 10, including the apparatuses and software modules, allows used book store proprietors and customers to sell and acquire, respectively, used book by creating a national inventory system that includes a virtuaUy persistent database, or bookstore, that is accessible through a communications medium such as the Internet.

Claims

What is claimed is:
1. A system for inventory and sale of used books, comprising; a database that maintains inventory information, the database, comprising: a first hierarchical structure, the first hierarchical structure including an identity of a used book, a second hierarchical structure related to the first hierarchical structure, the second hierarchical structure including an identity of a version of the used book, and a third hierarchical structure related to the second hierarchical structure, the third hierarchical structure including a description of a specific instance of the version of the used book, wherein the description includes book detail information; a book capture module for entering the book detad information into the database; and a search module that searches the database according to specified criteria, the specified criteria related to information included in one or more of the first, the second and third hierarchical structures.
2. The system of claim 1 , wherein the book detail information includes book condition information.
3. The system of claim 2, further comprising a book condition module, wherein the book condition module computes a book condition score based on the entered book detail information and wherein the book condition score is a numerical value from 1 to 101.
4. Thesystemofclaim3,furthercomprisώgabc)θkconditionvaluationmodulethatenters a subjective value of a condition of the used book, wherein the book condition value and the book condition score are related.
5. The system of claim 1 , further comprising a network, the network including a central location and one or more stores, wherein the database may be updated at one of the central location and the stores.
6. The system of claim 5 , wherein the network is one of an Internet, a local area network, a wireless network and a telephone network.
7. The system of claim 5 , wherein the stores and the central location comprise a high speed data connection including a digital subscriber line.
8. The system of claim 7. wherein the database is virtually persistent in the network.
9. The system of claim 1 , wherein the search module includes a search based on one or more of a barcode, a book identification number and book bibliographic information.
10. The system of claim 9, wherein the search module conducts multiple searches simultaneously.
11. The system of claim 9, wherein the search module provides search results organized by the first hierarchical structure and the second hierarchical structure.
12. The system of claim 11 , wherein the first hierarchical structure is a tide authority and the second hierarchical structure is a title instance.
13. The system of claim 12, wherein selecting a specific tide instance from a displayed Ust of title instances activates a book details module.
14. The system of claim 13, wherein the book details module enters allows entry of information related to one or more of price, defects, and notes.
15. The system of claim 14, wherein the defects information includes defect location, defect severity and defect type.
16. The system of claim 13 , wherein the book condition information comprises the defects information.
17. The system of claim 12, wherein the book details module comprises one or more templates, the templates used to assign standardized information to one or more used books.
18. The system of claim 1, wherein used books are grouped by topic.
19. The system of claim 1 , wherein used books are grouped by maximum price and minimum book condition.
20. The system of claim 1 , wherein used books are grouped by a cool book designation, the cool book designation including a book headline and a book summary.
21. The system of claim 1 , further comprising an online sale module, the online sales module comprising: a search module that searches the database using search parameters including one or more of book bibliographic information, barcode information, and book identification number, wherein the search module provides a search result according to entered search parameters; a sales module that computes a sales price based on a Usted book price and a shipping cost, and that prints a sales receipt at a local bookstore having a book to be sold.
22. The system of claim 21 , wherein the search module further comprises a search based on one or more of price, book condition, book binding and book edition.
23. The system of claim 21 , wherein the search results include one or more of tide, author, edition, price, book condition, and book binding and further comprising a search results sort module, wherein the search results may be sorted by one or more of edition, price, book condition and book binding.
24. The system of claim 1 , wherein the third hierarchical structure comprises a notes field, the notes field providing additional details related to a specific used book, the notes field including a free-form text box.
25. The system of claim 1 , further comprising an in store sales module, the in store sales module, comprising: a basic sales module; a void sale module; a discount sale module; a tax exempt sale module; a shipping module; a multiple sales module; an override price module; a store credit module; a returns module; and a buying module.
26. The system of claim 1 , further comprising an inventory manager module, the inventory manager module, comprising: a search module that searches the database for books listed in the third hierarchical structure and entered from a single store; a search results module that displays a search result; and a book details module that provides for changes to book information stored in the database.
27. The system of claim 1 , wherein remote bookstores originate first messages to enter inventory data into the database and second messages to record sales transactions and inventory gains and losses with the database, comprising: a message queue at each of the bookstores, wherein the message queue temporarily stores the first and the second messages for transmission.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein the first and the second messages are transmitted to a central location maintaining the database, wherein the inventory information in the first and the second messages update the inventory information in the database.
29. The system of claim 28, wherein the first and the second messages are transmitted when polled by the central location.
30. The system of claim 28, wherein the first and the second messages are transmitted using carrier sense multiple access protocols.
31. A method for entering and maintaining data in a relational database for non-standard or used products or a non-standard product line comprising: entering a unique identifying criteria for the non-standard product; entering a model or version identifier; relating the model or version to the unique identifying criteria; entering a description of the specific instance of the model or version, wherein the description includes detail information; relating the description to the model or version criteria; analyzing the descriptive information; using the analysis to calculate a score for the non-standard product; and estimating a price based on the score.
32. A method for inventory and sale of used books, comprising: creating a used book identity, comprising: searching a database to identify a book title authority and a title instance, creating an inventory item for the used book, and sending the inventory item to the database; and selling used books, comprising: searching the database to identify a desired used book, generating a sales transaction for the desired used book and updating the database to reflect the sale.
33. A method for inventory and sale of used books, comprising; creating a database that maintains inventory information, comprising: creating a first hierarchical structure, the first hierarchical structure including an identity of a used book, creating a second hierarchical structure related to the first hierarchical structure, the second hierarchical structure including an identity of a version of the used book, and creating a third hierarchical structure related to the second hierarchical structure, the third hierarchical structure including a description of a specific instance of the version of the used book, wherein the description includes book detail information; entering the book detail information into the database; and searching the database according to specified criteria to identified a desired book for purchase, the specified criteria related to information included in one or more of the first, the second and third hierarchical structures.
34. The method of claim 33, further comprising: generating an inventory item message including the book description; storing the inventory item message in a queue; and transmitting the inventory item message to a central location containing the database.
35. The method of claim 34, wherein the inventory item message is transmitted using carrier sense multiple access protocols.
36. The method of claim 34, wherein the inventory item message is transmitted when poUed by the central location.
37. The method of claim 33, wherein entering the book detaU information includes entering book condition information.
38. The method of claim 37, further comprising: computing a book condition score based on the book detaU information, wherein the book condition score is a numeric value; computing a descriptive score, based on the numeric value; and displaying the numeric value and the descriptive score.
39. The method of claim 33, further comprising coupling the database to a telecommunications network, wherein the network is one of a plain old telephone system, an Internet and an Intranet.
40. The method of claim 33, further comprising connecting the database to bookstores and customers using high speed digital subscriber lines, wherein the database is virtually persistent in the network.
41. The method of claim 33 , wherein the first hierarchal structure includes book authority information, the second hierarchal structure includes book instance information, and the third hierarchal structure includes information related to a particular copy of a book.
42. The method of claim 33, further comprising selling the used book on-line.
43. The method of claim 42, wherein the step of selling the book on-line, comprises: searching the database for a desired used book; displaying the search results; sorting the search results; and selecting the desired book from the sorted search results.
44. The method of claim 33, further comprising; creating a list of book topics; linking a used book to a book topic; and searching the database for a book to purchase using the book topic and the link.
45. The method of claim 33, further comprising: designating specific used books as cool books; creating cool books information, wherein the information includes one of a JPEG file and an MPEG 2 file; storing the cool books information with the database; and presenting selected cool book information to subscribers.
PCT/US2000/018646 1999-07-07 2000-07-07 System and method for inventory and sale of distributed books WO2001003047A1 (en)

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US4153931A (en) * 1973-06-04 1979-05-08 Sigma Systems Inc. Automatic library control apparatus
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Cited By (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20130198650A1 (en) * 2010-06-29 2013-08-01 Amazon Technologies, Inc. Managing items in a networked environment
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