PROCURING BOOKS CAN BE A hassle for libraries because it can require ordering as few as one or two items a year from each of perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, of different publishers. Likewise, publishers find it bothersome to process and collect payments on so many relatively small orders. To help out, buying agents have acted as intermediaries, charging around 5% per order.
In September, a new service on the Internet will help both parties cut costs. Working with Banc One Corp. and Open Market Inc., a software company, library-service provider RoweCom Inc. has created a setup that handles the whole process electronically, from catalog browsing to final payment. Banc One projects savings of 80% on transaction costs for libraries and much faster payments for publishers. Banc One and Open Market plan to apply the same order-processing and electronic-payment software to other "many-to-many" markets, such as retailing and insurance.