Book Sense was a marketing and branding program of the American Booksellers Association, in which independent bookstores across North America participated in order to better compete with the large book chains. Bookstores participating in the Book Sense program were expected to display the Book Sense logo and take part in at least some of the components of the program. In 2008, Book Sense was replaced by IndieBound.
Book Sense bestseller lists
The Book Sense bestseller program was developed to provide a method of calculating bestsellers better suited to independent bookstores than the lists provided by The New York Times and others. Two factors contribute to the differences. First, The New York Times lists include all book sales, including grocery stores, gift shops, independent bookstores, large chains, big box stores, and drug stores; where the Book Sense lists consider only sales from independent bookstores. Second, The New York Times lists include reports from publishers, which can "double-count" a book (the sale is reported once by the publisher and once by the retailer) and generate artificially high sales of popular new books when retailers and distributors purchase large numbers of books that may later be returned unsold to the publishers.
Book Sense had published weekly lists for hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, trade paperback fiction, trade paperback nonfiction, mass market paperback, "children's interest," children's illustrated, and children's fiction series. Category lists, which focus on a particular genre, are published less frequently. These lists have been replaced by the Indie Bestseller Lists that are released by IndieBound as XML feeds.
Book Sense picks
Before a major new book is published, the publisher will often send out Advance Reader Copies (ARCs--also known as uncorrected proofs) to booksellers to generate interest in the book. Owners and employees of Book Sense member stores review these ARCs, along with brand-new books when they are released, and nominate their favorites as "Book Sense picks." The American Booksellers Association handles nominations and voting, and releases monthly lists of what member stores have selected. There are special pick lists from time to time.
Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
Each year, owners and employees of each Book Sense member store have the opportunity to vote for The Book Sense Book of the Year, which is issued in four categories. The winning authors are honored at a banquet at BookExpo America. The Book Sense Book of the Year award has since been replaced by the Indies Choice Book Award.
- 2008 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
- 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
- 2006 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
- 2005 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
- 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
Book Sense gift cards
As of early 2006, approximately 400 bookstores participated in the Book Sense gift card program, which allows shoppers to buy a gift card in one member store and redeem it in another. The gift card program is administered by Givex corporation, and replaces an earlier Book Sense program that used paper gift certificates. Many participating stores experienced significant sales increases when switching from paper gift certificates to the Book Sense gift card program.
The BookSense.com Web site has a database of books, with over 2 million titles. Shoppers who visit BookSense.com are directed to the Web site of the nearest member bookseller, calculated by ZIP code. The individual websites share a central database administered by the ABA, although each store may set its own pricing. The sites can be constructed with a template system or custom-built.
In June 2008, Book Sense was replaced by IndieBound, a new program and website. After a period of beta testing, a social network-style community feature was launched on the website on September 11, 2008. The US scheme was further expanded to the UK, New Zealand and Australia. However, as of 2015 the Australian version appears to be in abeyance, as despite still having a Twitter account, the linked website is unrelated and the Australian Booksellers Assocation website makes no mention of it.