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Reading Books Reduces Out-of-Stocks

BGN, Holland's largest bookseller, plans to roll out RFID at its 42 stores throughout 2007 and 2008.
By Jonathan Collins
BGN is responsible for the cost of all the RFID tags, as publishers have not yet been receptive to sharing tagging costs. "In Holland, publishers decide the customer selling price of a book, and the bookseller legally has to stick to that price—so they decide what the booksellers' margin is," says van der Lely. "That does not help [when it comes to investing in RFID]. If we tell them it's in their interest to buy tags, they say they can't because it comes directly from their margin. So for now, it comes directly from ours. However, we expect that the benefits to the publishers will soon become visible, and the costs will move up the chain."

Centraal Boekhuis is responsible for costs related to tagging the books, and for its own RFID infrastructure. Centraal Boekhuis attaches a self-adhesive RFID label with a passive EPC Gen 2 standard inlay using Impinj ICs from UPM Raflatac on the back of each book it ships to the BGN store. The company places the label alongside the existing Book Indentification System (BIS) label, which carries bar-code and pricing information.

Libraries around the world have been tagging books with RFID tags, usually using high-frequency (13.56 MHz) tags. BGN opted to use ultrahigh-frequency (856 MHz) tags to benefit from expected lower tag costs, as well as the extended read range possible with that frequency range, so employees could read the tags without having to remove the books from the shelves.

At present, BGN pays 14.8 cents for every RFID label, in addition to the 2.8 cents it pays for the separate BIS label. But Centraal Boekhuis is bearing its own costs in developing an RFID-enabled version of the BIS label, so RFID-tagged books will have a single label. That investment from Centraal Boekhuis is part of its ongoing trial of RFID as a potential technology to use with many more of its bookseller customers. The company is starting to schedule initial meetings with other bookstore chains in the Netherlands.

BGN worked with Centraal Boekhuis' RFID partner, Capture Tech to develop and install the equipment required at the store. Both BGN and Centraal Boekhuis are using middleware software from Progress Software. BGN's back-office system already used a Progress Software package to integrate the data into existing enterprise-management systems. While BGN paid for all the tags, the remaining costs in the €500,000 ($635,000) project were shared among all four companies.

The distributor delivers books to the store in shipping boxes, each of which can hold between 35 and 50 books. "We made the decision not to tag boxes or carts, but to stick to item-level tagging only," says Jan Vink, director of information technology for BGN. "Otherwise, we would have to scan the boxes and associate the contents."

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