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The 5 Best Bookstore POS Software & Inventory Tools

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Bookstore POS systems

There are few dedicated bookstore POS systems — that is, point of sale systems made exclusively for booksellers. That said, cloud-based iPad POS software is perfect for bookstore environments. Sure, you may technically just need a simple register and scanner, but many POS systems come with plenty of features that can make hawking the latest Tana French or Stephen King novel that much easier. If you operate a bookstore, you almost certainly have a large and diverse inventory. You’ll need a system that can handle a high number of SKUs, and one with an easy-to-navigate interface to make searching simple.

And there’s so much more that modern POS systems can offer. The ability to create purchase orders could be a massive time-saver. Also, to compete in a world where Amazon is king, you’ll need an online presence, and your POS can help there as well as with eCommerce integrations. Want to find out what times of day, month, or year are the busiest? Get a system that can run intricate reports to help you streamline your selling. Readers are also extremely loyal customers, and you can reward them (as well as market to them individually) with a built-in loyalty program that can store and track information.

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, we’ll list the top five 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, tablet-friendly, and charge users on a month-to-month basis.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext Steps
Shopify is an affordable POS system for nearly any sized retailer. The company has great customer service and a simple interface, and its POS syncs seamlessly with Shopify's eCommerce platform.

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ShopKeep is an easy-to-use POS system for small to mid-sized retailers. It offers strong reporting and inventory for an affordable price, but you will need to call for a quote.

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Square for Retail combines the Square app's convenient design and simple, affordable processing with bulked up inventory and back-end features, making it a great option for small to mid-sized retailers.

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Lightspeed Retail is an extremely feature-rich product with deep inventory and built-in eCommerce. It also offers strong employee and customer management.

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Vend offers loads of features, including a built-in loyalty package and access to a wide variety of integrations. It has the functionality to suit nearly any sized retailer.

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Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

5 Great POS Systems For Booksellers and Bookstores

There’s no shortage of great POS systems on the market, but in niche markets such as bookstores, you’re going to be looking for a few particular features. Here are the best POS systems that offer tailored capabilities for your business.

1. Shopify POS

Shopify POS



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Shopify 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, which should have you covered for small retailers or pop-up stores. It includes both the POS system and a hosted eCommerce store. To take full advantage of Shopify’s features, you’ll want to upgrade to its higher package for $79 a month, which also features a lower processing rate, coming down from 2.7% to 2.5% if you use Shopify Payments.

Here are 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 2.5%-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 & Discounts At Checkout: Add custom line items to integrate specials at any time during checkout. Offer discounts by percentage or dollar amount, applying it to a single book or an 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 down. 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).

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2. ShopKeep

ShopKeep POS



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ShopKeep is another cloud-based iPad POS with a simple pay-as-you-go model that is offered on a quote basis. You’ll need to contact a sales rep to get an exact price, but it 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 & 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, such as raw ingredient management, ShopKeep can help you do that, too.

ShopKeep has expanded its inventory offerings recently and can import thousands of SKUs in bulk. It’s still probably best suited for smaller to mid-sized bookstores. It also has upgraded its offline mode and now can take card payments even during an internet outage.

Get Started with ShopKeep POS

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3. Square For Retail

Square For Retail



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Square for Retail is an excellent all-around product that combines the company’s trademark easy-to-use software with bulked up inventory and reporting. The pricing structure is simple, with Square for Retail costing $60 a month and additional registers coming in at $20 a month. That also comes with Square’s processing rate of 2.5% plus $0.10. Additionally, if you use other Square services, such as eCommerce, rates will be different. Here’s what Square for Retail has to offer:

  • Employee Management with time clock
  • Square Virtual Terminal
  • Free online store
  • Square payroll integration
  • Marketing campaigns as an add-on
  • Square loyalty and gift cards
  • Access to the Square App Store
  • Cash management

And, specifically for booksellers, Square for Retail has a number of nice bonus features:

  • Search-Focused Interface: Already easy to navigate, Square for Retail makes finding things exceptionally easy if you have large amounts of inventory.
  • Item Catalog With Descriptions: Easily create and catalog inventory with any information you want for easy searching later.
  • Real-Time Inventory Across Multiple Locations: If you have a larger operation, you can keep tabs on all of your inventory and easily transfer products from one store to the other.
  • Purchase Order Management: Create purchase orders and manage them across the dashboard.
  • Customer Directory: Keep tabs on customers and their purchasing history with the ability to add notes.

There’s a reason why Square continues to be one of the top points of sale options for small business owners. The introduction of Square for Retail bolstered its software’s back-end functions without sacrificing its unique usability and low cost. Square for Retail has excellent inventory management and gives you access to many of Square’s other unique benefits, such as its convenient processing, payroll software, and app store.

Get Started with Square For Retail

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4. Lightspeed Retail

Lightspeed POS



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Lightspeed Retail is another higher-end iPad and desktop POS for bookstores, with packages starting at $69/month for one register (billed annually). The Standard package comes with built-in eCommerce and accounting for $119/month (billed annually) and includes an extremely generous feature offering.

Here’s what you get with Lightspeed:

  • eCommerce (add-on or with purchase of Standard package or higher)
  • Multi-store 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 & Transfer Your Book Inventories Painlessly: Tag books by genre, sale items, or any other descriptor. Multi-location bookstores can also transfer inventory between stores and see what’s in stock at all locations (so you can check to see if another store has the book a customer wants).

Lightspeed decidedly falls into the category of an advanced POS system, and it may offer more than you need at a steeper price than you’re looking to pay if you’re running a relatively small operation. However, if you’re a higher-volume bookseller with some advanced inventory needs, Lightspeed certainly has you covered.

Get Started with Lightspeed POS

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5. Vend

Vend POS



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This cloud-based iPad and desktop POS, which runs on an iPad app or a Mac/PC via a web browser, starts at  $99/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, PayPal, and Square integrations for in-store credit card processing
  • Offline caching to complete sales even when the 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, such as your bestsellers, busiest hours, and highest-spending customers.
  • Sell Books Online & In-Store: Vend has its own eCommerce platform and also integrates with other leading platforms, such as Shopify. Vend seamlessly keeps your online/offline inventories and transactions in sync.

Vend continues to adapt and add new features, making it one of the deepest offerings on our list. While some of its add-ons can drive the price up, it should be able to handle any size bookstore you’re running.

Get Started with Vend POS

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Bookstore Software Honorable Mentions

There are also software programs specifically built for managing inventory that may integrate directly with your POS. If you’re looking to go that route, here are a few solid options.

Shopventory

Shopventory is extremely advanced for an inventory management system and a very strong option for smaller businesses. It has a free plan with a limited number of transactions and more advanced plans starting at $49 a month. Here are some of its key features:

  • Supports bundling for advanced purchases with multiple products
  • Integrates with Square, Clover, Shopify, and other POS systems
  • Customizable stock alerts
  • Simple tax management
  • Create and manage purchase orders
  • Basic employee management
  • Loyalty

Cin 7

Cin7 is another highly advanced inventory management system with its own built-in POS system. Pricing starts at $299 a month, which comes with a bevy of features, such as:

  • Batch importing
  • Ability to handle 50,000 SKUs
  • Mobile stock-taking, which can be done remotely
  • Purchase orders with multi-currency functionality
  • Label printing
  • Payment integrations
  • Offline mode
  • Built-in eCommerce

Booklog

Booklog is a quote-based inventory system made entirely with booksellers in mind, and it offers a number of convenient features, including but not limited to:

  • Sales, purchasing, and receiving orders
  • Preferred stock level and reorder points
  • View entire inventory with one click
  • Built-in point of sale
  • Gift cards
  • EMV compliant card processing
  • Alternate SKUs and ISBNs
  • Multiple reports

Basil

Another book-seller specific software is Basil, which costs a one-time set-up fee of $250 and $225 per month with no contract. It also features a Lite package starting at $65 a month per machine, and you can add eCommerce for $50 a month. Basil comes with the following features:

  • UPC and ISBN scanning
  • Cayan and Elavon integrations for card processing
  • Gift cards
  • Automatically-applied customer credit
  • Split transactions
  • Multi-store functionality
  • Built-in eCommerce

Anthology

Another popular inventory software is Anthology. Pricing starts at $260 a month and comes with a robust list of features. Some of the highlights include:

  • Simple Windows interface
  • Customizable reports
  • An advanced gift card and loyalty package
  • Create purchase orders
  • Automatically apply price changes
  • Overstock returns
  • Label printing

Which Bookstore POS System Is Right For You?

Hopefully, by now, you have made some headway in locking down the perfect POS system for your bookstore. With the above systems, you really can’t go wrong, but it’s crucial that you take care of your most pressing retail needs. Make a list of the most important things you’re looking for in a system, and don’t be afraid to get specific. Then compare that list to what these POS systems offer, and, assuming the price is right, you might have your answer.

If you have a smaller operation and are looking to save money on a system, check out Square for Retail or ShopKeep, as you likely won’t be paying for features you’re not using. If you have a flourishing online presence or are looking to build one, it’s difficult to go wrong with Shopify. And if you’re looking for systems with truly advanced inventory management along with fully-loaded features sets, Lightspeed Retail and Vend might be your best bet.

If you’re still on the fence, feel free to browse our other POS reviews, and if you’re looking for a more detailed analysis of inventory management, here’s another good resource for you. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section as well, and we’ll try and steer you in the right direction!

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. Shopify POS
    Summary - Shopify is an affordable POS system for nearly any sized retailer. The company has great customer service and a simple interface, and its POS syncs seamlessly with Shopify's eCommerce platform.
  2. ShopKeep POS
    Summary - ShopKeep is an easy-to-use POS system for small to mid-sized retailers. It offers strong reporting and inventory for an affordable price, but you will need to call for a quote.
  3. Square For Retail
    Summary - Square for Retail combines the Square app's convenient design and simple, affordable processing with bulked up inventory and back-end features, making it a great option for small to mid-sized retailers.
  4. Lightspeed POS
    Summary - Lightspeed Retail is an extremely feature-rich product with deep inventory and built-in eCommerce. It also offers strong employee and customer management.
  5. Vend POS
    Summary - Vend offers loads of features, including a built-in loyalty package and access to a wide variety of integrations. It has the functionality to suit nearly any sized retailer.
Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
Shannon Vissers
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14 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Michele

    Need your help. Our church has a bookstore that is only open on Sundays for our congregation. We use square for our sales, but it doesn’t keep track of incoming stock costs, shipping costs, etc. $69 + a month is just too expensive for us. Do you have any recommendations for us? Appreciate any thoughts.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      Shannon Vissers

      It’s hard to beat Square’s prices for its value, but it definitely doesn’t have every feature out there. If you want a more advanced feature set, you’ll have to use one of the paid versions of Square, or another POS on this list such as Vend or Shopify. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to find a POS that offers those features available for less than $69/mo. However, it’s possible that one of the free POS systems discussed in the following article (such as Imonggo or Linga) could work for you: The Best Free POS Systems

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        Pip Henshaw

        Hi there – this is very helpful. Your article mentions campus bookstores though but no information/review on their ability to manage academic/course adoption information. Currently our POS (while having difficulties in some areas) has a robust Academic Module that allows us to keep track of lecturer and course co-ordinator details; past adoptions; roll numbers over multiple years; semester etc etc. We also can scan and upload titles by importing straight from a database we subscribe to.

        do any of these reviewed have Academic Module capability; or do any other readers have ideas?

        Thanks!

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          Emily Hale

          Hello Pip,

          With the type of tracking needs you’re describing, I suggest checking out our full Bepoz POS review, as it touts one of the most advanced reporting systems with very robust features. Another option would be QuickBooks POS. Hope one of these gets you on the right path for your particular needs.

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

            We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.

            Loretta Tukahirwa

            Hi,

            Which of these systems are available in Uganda (East Africa). How much would it cost to set it up for a local bookstore with no quickbooks.

            Regards

              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

              Jessica Dinsmore

              Hi Loretta,

              We aren’t aware of any Bookstore POS Systems specific to Uganda, though our understanding is that Loyverse is commonly used in Africa. I’d suggest reaching out to them directly to see if they service your area. Good luck!

                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                John

                Well, almost…. We use Square Register. This system is slick, impresses customers with it’s easy to use terminal, is FAST, handles inventory and only costs you money when you process a credit card. It accepts all cards and all taps.

                Did I mention it only costs you when you process a credit transaction? That means no monthly fee, no multi year contract and free cash/checks transactions. Oh, and the inventory piece is included.

                Customer loyalty and gift card transactions are free. And it comes with an internet site page that gives you sales trends, sends you notices of low stock and the processing charges are very reasonable.

                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                  Thomas BENADIER

                  Hi John I see you’re using square as we do for our bookstore & I love it … it’s easy, it accept all credit cards & takes payments off line … the big down side though is that when you scan a new entry, you have to enter alll info of the books manually (copy n paste from our wholesale supplier to our Square pos inventory) while to what I’ve understood with certain apps, just by scanning the isbn code of the book, will pull all info of the book (title, author, retail price, category,etc) and show up automatically on your screen (When creating a new item or new entry) … do you have this feature with square ? Cause that rigid definitely help !! Many thanks

                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                    Anne

                    Hi. We have a second hand bookstore with about 30,000 books. We have a website under construction using OpenCart. But the problem is loading new stock. I have a hand-held reader which takes care of the barcode. But I’m having trouble finding software to then look up the book’s cover, details etc from wherever it is held. If I can get it to Excel I can then hopefully update the new website. We have no staff except the owners, and no purchases except cash so no ordering of books. Bindo looks promising, but do the cheaper ones look up the details as well?

                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                      Jessica Dinsmore

                      Anne,

                      If you’re looking for something more affordable, I’d say Vend or Shopify should be able to meet your needs. They are our top two choices in the post you are commenting on as well, so they are certainly worth looking into. Good luck!

                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                        williamgmz

                        Are the systems in your piece all pretty straightforward when it comes to dealing with returns and accounts receivable matters.I also wonder if there are issues regarding the size of one’s database and searches online. As with books, there are millions of titles of sheet music so the ability to deal with granular searches is key.

                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                          Shannon Vissers

                          Hi there! All of these systems do offer straightforward returns/refunds and will integrate with accounting software such as QuickBooks or Xero for accounts receivable purposes. With an inventory as large as yours, I’d recommend Bindo or Lightspeed, as those systems have the most robust inventory functionality.

                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                            Rob Bethel

                            Dear Shannon,
                            This post was helpful. I am a sheet music shop so I think that many of our peculiar issues will be similar to those of bookstores. We currently use and are fed up with a POS system owned by Intuit. We initially got it because it was supposed to be able to transfer data to Quickbooks seamlessly. Well, that turned out to be sorta true. This system sucks for processing returns which is a major flaw for use in a retail setting. We have a lot of institutions in our customer base who pay us by check after we generate an invoice. This system also has trouble with that.

                            Are the systems in your piece all pretty straightforward when it comes to dealing with returns and accounts receivable matters? I also wonder if there are issues regarding the size of one’s database and searches online. As with books, there are millions of titles of sheet music so the ability to deal with granular searches is key.

                            Many thanks for your thoughts.

                            Rob Bethel

                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                              Shannon Vissers

                              Hi Rob, all of these POS systems are fine on the returns end, but I believe the only one that has built-in accounts receivable functionality is Bindo. Bindo is also a good choice for searching/managing a large catalog. The rest of these systems integrate with QuickBooks for accts receivable, but sometimes things can get funky when integrating two systems (even when it’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks’ POS, as you found out!) I can’t really tell you anything more specific than that, but all of these systems have free trials so you can test out these and other functions.

                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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