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Japanese Publisher Manages Book Sales with RFID

A Japanese publisher is tagging individual books as part of an innovative effort to reduce returns and waste. To encourage better demand planning and ordering, the publisher offers retailers flexible payment terms, which are encoded in a tag applied to each book in the order.
Dec 09, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

December 9, 2008—A Japanese publisher is tagging books to improve payment processes in the industry and to try to reduce returns and waste. Shogakukan, a Japanese book publisher, has applied RFID tags to more than 70,000 home medical dictionaries sold through bookstores. Retailers can purchase the books from Shogakukan and resell them, or choose to be paid by consignment. Sales terms have been encoded into Gen2-standard RFID tags to help Shogakukan manage returns and pay retailers accurately, according to UPM Raflatac, which announced its inlays are being used in the ongoing system.

Non-consignment sales produce more margin for retailers, but orders often result in a higher percentage of returns to the publisher. Shogakukan estimates that returned books that end up being disposed of as waste could cost the Japanese publishing industry approximately $1.5 billion annually.

Shogakukan wanted retailers to improve their demand planning and purchasing so it could reduce returns and resulting waste. In response, the company developed its flexible sales terms. Retailers can sell the same book under different terms. For example, the initial order may be purchased from Shogakukan, with subsequent orders of the same title sold by consignment. The publisher believes this flexibility will help align orders with demand, and thereby reduce waste. The ability to conveniently and accurately label each book with its payment terms makes the program feasible.

Shogakukan reads the tags to support logistics and returns processes, according to UPM Raflatac. Returned books can be easily associated with a specific order and its payment terms, because each book is identified individually. Suuri-Keikaku, a Japanese firm that develops information systems for the publishing industry, worked with Shogakukan and UPM Raflatac to develop the system. Suuri-Keikaku belongs to the same group of companies as Shogakukan.

Several bookstores and numerous libraries around the world use item-level RFID tagging to manage titles, but these projects have been led by the retailers and library managers, not publishers.
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