Simple pleasures in life: an empty intray • 8 December 2006 • The SnowBlog

Simple pleasures in life: an empty intray


My 'to do' box is nearly empty. And my 'to do' list only has 20 things on it. Admittedly some of those things will each take about six months, but that's ok. That's my new pen there, too, which Rob got me for my birthday. I can now write nice, neat letters to people, and sign letters in prussian blue ink like a proper lady grown up. Coupled with the fact that I can also use the prefix 'Mrs', that gives me practically invincible levels of social standing. 

News from SnowTowers: two things of ours appeared in The Bookseller this week. One: a brief article about James' Second Life launch. Two: a letter following up on the two letters about BIC codes. Click below the line for the unedited version (that makes it sound racey. It's just more rounded.) 

Also we have an excellent advert in Private Eye for How Very Interesting. This is advertising's last chance; if we don't get lots of sales from this we really aren't going to advertise again, ever, ever, because this is a perfect ad in the perfect publication for the perfect product. I will keep you posted. 

cook.jpg To the editor of the Bookseller: 

Howard Willows wrote in recently to respond to Robin Tobin on the subject of BIC classification codes. Robin was disappointed that BIC codes don't better reflect the way customers mentally group books. Howard pointed out that BIC codes are a kind of lingua franca for supply chain data - it's not a sales grouping or a customer-led classification - it's intended for internal use between publishers and retailers, so naturally it doesn't attempt to reflect customer thinking. But that still leaves me puzzled. Because it's for use out of sight of the customer, I can accept that BIC codes must be modelled on the internal data requirements of the supply chain. And if they happen to be at odds with customer thinking, then too bad: it's not about them. But what are the internal data requirements of the book supply chain? And what would the classifications they generate be useful for? I hope I'm not missing the obvious, but all I can come up with is that the retailer would use those groupings for aggregating performance data and for planning ranges - in other words for putting together their customer offer and then reviewing its success. That's a highly customer-dependent activity. Publishers too might look at which classifications their titles fall into as a way of gauging the strengths, and the gaps, in their list, as well as identifying where the profits are coming from: in other words, range planning and sales analysis. And both of those activities are best done with a classification based on the way customers mentally group books and then make their purchases. 
Whether creating such a classification is a task that BIC - or anyone else for that matter - can truly succeed at is a different question. It's likely to be a moving target, for a start. But that's slightly off the point. I'm still at a loss to understand what internal supply chain use Howard has in mind that takes precedence over a customer and sales led approach. In the age of category management, when retailers reorganise their processes - even their office space - around the way customers group products, I think that the necessity that has drawn BIC away from thinking about the customer had better be an awfully good one.



The SnowBlog is one of the oldest publishing blogs, started in 2003, and it's been through various content management systems over the years. A 2005 techno-blunder meant we lost the early years, but the archives you're reading now go all the way back to 2005.

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