Complicated - But Not If You Know The Answer..

Discussion in 'Pre-Sales Questions' started by teamthrifty, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. teamthrifty

    teamthrifty New Member

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    Is it possible to use amember to integrate with a CMS such as e107 to produce:

    1. A subcription Member Site With Recurring PayPal, 2Checkout, etc payments...

    combining

    2. A subscription service that will allow subscriber to purchase 1 time or rercurring - physical products, inegrated with some physical mailing label program to allow the weekly product to be delivered via postal mail to customer?

    Any help as to the direction I need to go would be appreciated.

    What I am wanting to do is set up website that has sales page,
    then when customer purchases offer, to track who gets physical product and when they don't by printing only "member" physical mailing labels... but inegrating with email also...

    Thanks in advance....

    Don
  2. getresults

    getresults Member

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    Amember works great with e107 with the e107 plugin.

    The subscription tracking service is more difficult as amember is not set up to handle physical products.

    I have an amember site that ships physical products. I adapted some of the Amember reports reports and also created another admin interface area that indicates whether a product has been marked as shipped or not.
  3. gswaim

    gswaim CGI-Central Partner

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    getresults,

    I use aMember to control a Moodle site. I will start selling a book this fall and I really don't want to set up a shopping cart just to sell a book. I had thought of setting up an aMember product for the book sales and it sounds like you have already tried it.

    Could you expand on how this works? This sounds interesting.
  4. skippybosco

    skippybosco CGI-Central Partner Staff Member

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    gswaim,

    I use Amember today for physical book sales (through lulu.com).

    I have a couple of sites that I do this on.

    On one site I have online products that you can "add a printed book" option.

    On another site I have a package deal that includes a book and dvd.

    Do you have any specific questions?
  5. gswaim

    gswaim CGI-Central Partner

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    Neat... I looked at LuLu, BookSurge, LSI and a regional POD printer. I am leaning towards LSI.

    I will be offering an online course powered by Moodle/aMember. On the same site I want to offer the course content as a book. I will provide a link to Amazon but I also want to offer the book from me.

    I know I could simply add an aMember product to represent the book. I would set it up to not enroll the user in a Moodle class and I assume the subscription time would be irrelevant.

    There will be a few things I need to figure out, such as:

    Freight:
    I will likely add a fixed shipping amount to the price of the book.

    Shipping Address:
    Do you try to get the shipping address in aMember or gather that on the CC processor form?

    Multiple books in one order:
    I am not sure the best way to do this. What if the person wants to buy 2-3 books at a time?

    Other Options
    ==========

    Shopping Cart

    Using a real shopping cart program. The advantages I see would be better shipping support (printing of shipping label, etc). The ability to apply order status such as "shipped" when the book is actually shipped.

    I see that I could integrate the databases of aMember and X-Cart, but not sure what advantages that would really be. I don't think I could look in aMember and see any transaction details.

    Buy Buttons From PayPal/Google Checkout


    I could set up a "Buy Now" button from the same service I use with aMember. For example if aMember used Google Checkout and I used "Buy Now" button from Google Checkout all my sales (online classes and books) would end up in the Google Checkout merchant center. From there I can assign a status such as shipped.

    The only think that makes me nervous about this is I would not have a copy of the book transaction on my server. It would only exist on the Google server.

    Thanks in advance on any ideas on the best way to pull this off.
  6. skippybosco

    skippybosco CGI-Central Partner Staff Member

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    Hi Grant,

    First off, great site!

    Secondly, I am curious to know your decision making process when choosing LSI versus the other options.

    Regarding shipping, I build it into the price. I have a slightly different set up from you in that the online access is a base required product and the book is a supplement. With this in mind, I do get the shipping address from Amember.

    Depending on how many books you have, you can list them on a single signup page with check boxes to pick which one they are interested in as today the notion of "add to cart" is not a function of Amember.
  7. gswaim

    gswaim CGI-Central Partner

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    Thanks Skippy B.

    I have been contemplating self publishing for a long time and have looked at most of the major players. Here is a summary of what I know about print-on-demand (POD) printing companies.

    LULU
    ===
    LULU was the first company I heard about in the POD industry. I scoured their website and read all they had. I also read a lot of their forum posts. I found it odd that there was no way to actually talk to a human. It looked like their main support was via a forum and most of the help came from volunteers. It looked like the only way to get one-on-one help was through a chat session. There also seemed to be a large number of forum posts from people who here having problems with this type of support.

    LULU is in Raleigh NC and I live about 90 miles away in Greensboro, NC. I am in Raleigh about once a month. I emailed LULU twice asking if I could stop in at their headquarters for a short meeting to discuss my book. I never got a response. That did it for me.

    Their distribution plans also seemed convoluted and hard to even understand.

    From what I have read I don't think LULU has any actual production capacity. From what I read, LULU's books are printed by LSI.

    BookSurge
    ========
    BookSurge is a POD company that is owned by Amazon and is located in Charleston, SC (about 300 miles away). I was able to call them and actually talk to a human. They also were willing to let me make a site visit and tour the production floor. BookSurge does print their books on site.

    I think there were some quality issues early on with BookSurge. After they were bought by Amazon they did some equipment upgrades and they seem to produce good books.

    BookSurge's strongest asset is that they are owned by Amazon. Since Amazon has control over the production (and can produce any book in the BookSurge system is 8 hours) they show all BookSurge's books as "In Stock" on the Amazon site. Many people are reluctant to order a book that is not in stock.

    A side bar to the Amazon/BookSurge thing is that Amazon is now trying to force all POD authors and publishers to use BookSurge. That battle is stll being played out. There are work arounds to this; however, if you want your book to be sold on Amazon, BookSurge is the easiest way to do it.

    While BookSurge is strong in distribution to Amazon, they aren't particularly strong in wholesale distributions to book stores, college book stores, and other wholesale buyers.

    Create Space
    ==========
    Create Space is another Amazon owned POD company. They are located in CA and work more like LULU (all support via online).

    Lightning Source Inc (LSI)
    ===================
    LSI is located outside of Nashville, TN. They are, by a long shot, the largest POD printer. LSI is strictly a POD printer. They do not sell books to the public. They do not offer any prepress services; therefore, they only work with publishers. This means that an author that wants to use LSI must take on the role of publisher. You have to provide press ready PDF files with ISBN numbers already on the cover. If your files are not correct, they will refer you vendors that can provide you with the services you need.

    I plan on playing the role of author and publisher. LSI offers detailed documents on their website on how to prepare the book block file and the cover file.

    LSI's strongest asset is distribution. LSI is owned by Ingram Book, the largest USA wholesale distributor. They are used by close to 90% of the book retailers. Ingram will show LSI's POD titles as "In Stock" in their system.

    Some of the distribution options with LSI:
    • They sell your book on the wholesale market through Ingram.
    • They sell copies back to the author
    • They will drop ship books for the author from 1 copy to unlimited copies.
    .

    There is a good book, written by Aaron Shepard, that highlights the Lightning Source/Amazon path. The author is about to release the second version of the book and for the month of August 2008, a draft copy of the book is available from his website. The author is offering it to his readers for comment and a final edit. I would download this draft copy. It has a lot of information on how to work with LSI.

    Aaron Shepard's Website
    You will find the link to the book in the blog post dated August 8th

    Direct link to the Aiming For Amazon Draft

    Later...
  8. skippybosco

    skippybosco CGI-Central Partner Staff Member

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    Grant,

    Thanks so much for this, great feedback. I've got Aaron's book on my Sony Reader and have gotten in a few chapters. Nice read! I really appreciate the share.

    About LuLu
    I can tell you that I have been using lulu.com for the last couple of years and quite honestly have not had any issues with them. The online and email based support actually fits my model better as I travel a lot and find myself working odd hours where a traditional phone support would not work.

    As I have 50+ books published through them, I also enjoy the fact that there is no project initiation (setup) fee. I take orders directly through Amember and order through lulu.com on demand with shipping direct to customer. No bulk orders, no Amazon or bookstore sales, no ISBN. With the exception of shipping I keep 100% of the profits.

    Also, my industry requires that updates are made to the books every 3-4 months, having those changes instant (with no fees) is attractive as well.

    Would the other distribution channels with albeit smaller profit make more in the long run? Possibly.

    Questions about LSI
    I spent some time on their site and had some Questions I'm wondering if you know the answers to?

    1) Pricing? I can not find any information on pricing (say 300 page b&w softcopy)
    2) Binding Options? Are, for example, spiral spines available?
    3) Minimum order? Can I order 1 at a time and ship direct to customer?
    4) ISBN required? If I am not planning retail distribution, do I need an ISBN?
    5) API? Is there an API/Web Service to automate the process?
  9. skippybosco

    skippybosco CGI-Central Partner Staff Member

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    So I have dug into the topic a bit and gotten some of the answers.

    1. A 300 page black and white paperbook will run ~$7.30 each print (as opposed to LuLu.com's $10 each print). The gotcha here is that there is a $75 one time setup fee per title and ~$80 each time you need to make a change to the book. Long run LSI is a better deal from a printing cost standpoint.

    2. No spiral spines, but they do have a variety of hard and soft copy options.

    3. No minimum, can order 1 direct to customer

    4. No ISBN required if you are not selling retail.

    5. They do have an EDI system of some kind. I still need to wrap my head around it, but some level of automation is possible.

    It seems that I may consider doing my long runs with LSI and short runs/niche stuff with LuLu.

    Thanks again for all of the information.
  10. skippybosco

    skippybosco CGI-Central Partner Staff Member

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    To provide an update:

    I've gotten the specs on the EDI integration from LSI and it sounds pretty straightforward. Would need to have an Amember plugin that generates a properly formatted .txt file containing customer and order information and FTP it to LSI on payment completion. This is stored in an "incoming" folder and deleted from their server once the order as been processed.

    Optionally, as part of the Amember Cron job perhaps, a check of an "outgoing" folder on LSI server can be checked for file names matching the order # which will contain confirmation of the orders processing and (where applicable) tracking numbers.

    I'll most likely be developing (or having developed) the LSI plugin. Let me know if you are interested in a copy.
  11. erwinvdb

    erwinvdb aMember Pro Customer

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    @ skippybosco

    I'd like to know more about your Lulu/LSI adventure. I've published a book and had it printed locally, but would like to take the POD road. If this process of ordering-printing can be automated than that would be splendid.

    Thanks,
    Erwin

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