Bookstore POS systems

There are few dedicated bookstore POS systems—that is, point of sale systems made exclusively for booksellers. This being said, cloud-based iPad POS software is perfect for bookstore environments. Booksellers need robust inventory management to track and restock a large catalog of books, and cloud POS software can store massive amounts of inventory data in the cloud. It can even alert you when you’re running low on the latest James Patterson or Barbara Kingsolver, or that classic Vonnegut you sell X-many copies of every year. Moreover, smart POS features, like eCommerce and email marketing integration, help bring your bookstore into the 21st century.

Whether you sell textbooks or cookbooks, whether you have a small new bookstore or a used-book superstore, the right POS for you is out there. In this post, I’ll list the top 5 bookstore POS systems and clue you in on the information you need to select the best POS for your store. All of these modern POS systems are easy to set up and use, iPad-friendly, and charge users on a month-to-month basis. 

1. Vend 

This cloud-based iPad and desktop POS (running on an iPad app or a Mac/PC via a web browser) starts at only $69/month for one store and one register. Besides being ultra-affordable, this POS also has a lot of other good stuff going for it.

Here’s just some of what you get with Vend (see our review):

  • eCommerce (online store)
  • Customer loyalty program
  • Employee tracking
  • Inventory management with barcode support
  • Customer management
  • Gift cards
  • Store credit
  • Multi-location support
  • Vantiv and PayPal, and Square integration for in-store credit card processing
  • Offline caching to complete sales even when internet is down

So how would this POS work out for bookstores? Here are some of its bookseller-friendly features:

  • Easily manage a large inventory of books: Add, edit, or remove books from your database in seconds or import existing catalogs; track your inventories across one or multiple bookstores.
  • Make important business decisions for your store: Reports from Vend’s reporting suite show you important metrics like your bestsellers, busiest hours, and highest-spending customers.
  • Sell books online as well as in-store: Vend has its own eCommerce platform and also integrates with other leading platforms like Shopify. Vend seamlessly keeps your online/offline inventories and transactions in sync.

A couple of Vend’s downsides are its lack of purchase order support, and the fact that “Priority” technical support is not included in the subscription base price. But overall, Vend is a very affordable and capable POS for bookstores of any size.

Learn more from our Vend review.

2. Shopify 

Shopify (see our review) is an ideal iPad POS for bookstores that also sell online, though it’s a good POS even for booksellers who haven’t fully branched into online sales yet. Shopify’s Basic plan starts at $29/month, but Shopify recommends adding the $49/month Retail package if you have a physical store with POS hardware—making for an effective starting price of $78/month.

Here’s the basic functions of this super easy-to-use POS:

  • eCommerce
  • Software for inventory management with barcode support
  • In-house Shopify Payment processing (rates range from 2.4%–2.7%)
  • Social media sales channels
  • Unlimited products/registers
  • Customer profiles with order histories and buying patterns
  • Customer-facing display
  • Gift cards
  • Custom receipts
  • 24/7 tech support

So, now let’s envision how this POS would function in a bookstore:

  • Manage large catalogs with ease: Upload your entire inventory of books and their related images and variants (e.g., hardback, paperback) with a CSV import.
  • Take your bookstore online: With Shopify’s integrated eCommerce platform, you can sell online and use a single online dashboard to manage orders and customer information for both in-store and online sales channels.
  • Offer book specials and discounts at checkout: Add custom line items to integrate specials at any time during checkout; also offer discounts by percentage or dollar amount, applying to a single book or entire purchase.
  • Let customers pay with store credits: Generate custom payment options such as IOUs; this feature might be useful for a used bookstore that accepts books in exchange for credits and vice versa. You can also give and accept store credit in exchange for books.

One downside to this POS is its limited offline functionality—you can’t process credit card transactions if the internet goes out. Because of that limitation, I’d recommend Shopify only for small to medium bookstores with a steady internet connection (and/or a backup hotspot router).

Find out more in our Shopify POS review.

3. ShopKeep 
bar nightclub pos systems

ShopKeep (see our review) is another cloud-based iPad POS with a simple, pay-as-you-go model. This one will set you back $69/month for one register and is ideal for small, specialty bookstores.

ShopKeep’s basics:

  • In-house payment processing through ShopKeep Payments (or use your preferred merchant account)
  • 10,000 item inventory and 270 item buttons
  • Inventory management with barcode support
  • Staff management
  • Capture customer contact information at sale
  • MailChimp email marketing integration
  • QuickBooks accounting integration
  • BigCommerce eCommerce integration
  • AppCard loyalty program integration
  • iPhone reporting suite (ShopKeep Pocket app)
  • 24/7 live customer support

And here are some things booksellers can do with ShopKeep:

  • Take control of your bookstore inventory: Track your entire catalog of books, including prices and quantities; get alerts to reorder when you’re running low on your bestsellers. Look up book prices quickly at checkout using the barcode scanner.
  • See your bookstore’s performance at a glance and on-the-go: See sales by genre, track bestsellers, and more. You can review these reports online or on the ShopKeep Pocket app.
  • Stay connected with your customers: Capture customers’ names and contact info when they buy a book, and stay in touch via email to alert them of special offers and events at your bookstore.
  • Sell edible treats with your books: Do you sell espresso drinks or baked goods at your bookshop? With cafe-friendly features like raw ingredient management, ShopKeep can help you do that, too.

ShopKeep only supports up to 10,000 items so it’s not the best POS for very large bookstores. However, for small indie bookstores that are pretty selective about the titles they stock, ShopKeep is a great choice for its granular inventory management and excellent customer support. As with Shopify POS, keep in mind that you need internet to process credit cards with this POS.

Learn more in our ShopKeep POS review.

4. Bindo 

Bindo’s (see our review) cloud-based iPad POS is a little pricier than some of the other choices on our list (pricing varies based on how many items you have), though it’s a more advanced system with truly unbeatable inventory management technology.

Here are some of Bindo’s biggest selling points as a POS:

  • eCommerce (included in base price)
  • Processor-agnostic (use any payment processor you want)
  • Purchase order support
  • Advanced inventory management with Simple Scan Technology
  • CRM features
  • Multi-location capable
  • Employee time clock
  • QuickBooks and Xero integration
  • Gift cards
  • Loyalty program
  • Bindo Marketplace Search presence (allows nearby shoppers to discover your store)
  • 24/7 customer support

How can bookstores use Bindo? I thought you’d never ask!

  • Manage book inventories painlessly: Add books to your inventory using Simple Scan Technology (automatically looks up product information using manufacturer’s barcode), and sort books quickly (for example, by genre or author) using product matrices.
  • Reorder book stocks and manage book suppliers: With Bindo’s integrated purchase order support, you can facilitate the entire restocking process, from ordering books from suppliers to pushing them out onto the sales floor.
  • Track your stock and sales: View real-time updates to your book sales and stocks, and create custom reports to show the big picture of your bookstore’s activity.
  • Set up a loyalty program for your bookstore: Encourage repeat business using Bindo’s integrated loyalty program functionality.

Bindo can continue to queue credit card payments if you go offline, though users say the POS can be buggy if you don’t have a very high-speed internet connection. Overall, Bindo has one of the most advanced feature sets for a retail iPad POS.

Find out more by reading our Bindo POS review.

5. Lightspeed Retail 
Lightspeed POS review

Lightspeed Retail (see our review) is another higher-end iPad and desktop POS for bookstores, with packages starting at $99/month for one register (billed annually); however, it offers a very robust feature set, similar to Bindo’s.

Here’s what you get with Lightspeed:

  • eCommerce (for additional $59/month)
  • Multistore inventory management
  • Offline functionality
  • Customer-facing displays
  • Purchase order management
  • Employee management
  • Work order management
  • CRM
  • Gift cards and store credit
  • Integrations for email marketing, accounting, loyalty programs, and more
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Payment processing integrations with Vantiv, iZettle, and Cayan

Lightspeed Retail has many functions that make this POS conducive to a bookstore environment:

  • Streamline the book-ordering process: Lightspeed Retail lets you create multiple purchase orders for the different vendors you use. You can also return damaged or overstocked books easily through the “Return to vendor” feature.
  • Offer your customers special orders: Accept and deliver special orders for rare or out-of-print titles.
  • Sort and transfer your book inventories painlessly: Tag books by genre, sale items, or any other descriptor. Multi-location bookstores can also transfer inventory between locations, and see inventories at all locations (so you can check to see if another store has the book a customer wants).

In the past, Lightspeed Retail has had some complaints about customer support and system outages, so you may want to read some of these reviews before choosing Lightspeed.

Learn more about this POS from our Lightspeed Retail review.

How To Choose A Bookstore POS

I worked at my alma mater’s campus bookstore as a freshman. The old-school cash register system was so bad that I would sometimes get overwhelmed and end up giving people their books for free (which, come to think of it, might be the reason why my name just disappeared from the schedule one day). Fortunately, campus bookstores (and other types of book sellers) have better POS options today than they did in 2001—not sure if the quality of student workers has improved, though.

To sum up, here’s a roundup of our top picks:

Vend or Shopify: Best for small-to-medium bookstores who want to sell online

ShopKeep: Best for small, indie book shops that carry a limited number of titles

Bindo or Lightspeed: Best for medium-to-large, multi-location bookstores

Most of these bookstore POS systems offer free trials on their websites—just click on their logos above—and since they all use an iPad interface, you won’t have to buy new equipment to try out each system. It’s a good idea to try out a few bookstore POS systems before you settle on one (but as a lover of books, you’re probably smart enough to have figured that out already). Best of luck and happy book-selling!

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