Great Expectations: The 5 Best Bookstore POS Software & Inventory Tools
There are few actual dedicated bookstore POS systems (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, to start. To compete in a world where Amazon is king, you’ll need an online presence, and your POS can help there as well 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 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.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
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5 Great POS Systems For Booksellers and Bookstores
A great point of sale for bookstores or booksellers will include features like strong inventory tracking, a simple interface, and excellent customer management. Lightspeed, Square, Vend, Shopify, and KORONA Cloud POS are some of the best POS systems for bookstores and booksellers. Read on for a detailed look at each.
1. Lightspeed Retail: Best For Inventory & Employee Management
Lightspeed Retail POS
Lightspeed Retail is a 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
- 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.
- Built-in accounting
- Purchase order management
- Easy eCommerce platform
- Can be pricey
2. Vend: Best For Integration & Functionality
Vend by Lightspeed
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.
- 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 does 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.
- Inventory with barcode support
- Excellent loyalty program
- Multi-location functionality
- Basic reporting
- May pay for features you don’t need
3. Square For Retail: Best For Payment Processing
Square For Retail
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: Square for Retail costs $60 a month, with additional registers coming in at $20 a month. Square’s standard payment processing rate is 2.5% plus $0.10. 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.
- Ease of use
- Built-in processing
- Search functionality
- Occasional fund holds
- Upgrade for 24/7 customer support
4. Shopify POS: Best For eCommerce Sales
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:
- 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).
- Excellent eCommerce
- Gift card functionality
- Multiple integrations
- Offline mode lacking
5. KORONA Cloud POS: Best For Scalability
KORONA Cloud POS is an affordable point of sale system with an excellent starting feature set, including strong inventory management tools that any bookstore could utilize. The software starts at $49 a month and they offer a very generous free trial that is virtually unlimited. It features a customizable interface, allowing you set up the system to your specifications. It’s also highly scaleable if you need some more advanced features in the form of add-ons.
Here are some of KORONA’s basic features:
- Record of money movement
- Hardware peripherals
- Product searches
- Transaction pauses
- Bulk importing and exporting
- Gift cards
And in terms of POS features for bookstores, KORONA has you covered with:
- Multi-Store Capability: Easily track and send inventory to and from multiple locations. Great for when customers have items they want to put on hold.
- Advanced Inventory: Crucial for bookstores, KORONA allows you to transfer entire product lists, sort by a variety of categories, track when new items are scheduled to arrive, and stay informed about your store’s exact item counts in real-time.
- Loyalty Integration: Implement a system that rewards your customers with points and encourages repeat business. You can also track customer preferences, including things like favorite genres.
- eCommerce Integration: In order to compete with the publishing giants out there, you almost have to have a strong online presence. KORONA POS’s eCommerce makes it easy to set up a functional and simple online store to increase your customer base.
- Reporting: KORONA point of sale comes with detailed reports that can help you know what titles are selling and what to keep stocked for the future.
- Affordable price point
- Free trial
- Lack of integrations
- Some features lacking
Looking For One Of These Bookstore Software POS & Inventory Systems?
There are a few programs specifically built for managing bookstore inventory software that may integrate directly with your POS. If you’re looking to go that route, here are a few solid options.
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
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 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
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
Booktrakker is another solid option for bookstores to consider and offers a generous free trial with basic packages starting at just $10 a month for a basic package and $30 a month for its most advanced software. Some of the features it includes are:
- Data entry from a remote computer
- Uploads and exports
- Image scanning
- ISBNs and ASINs
- List view and column management
4 Essential Features Booksellers Need In A Bookstore POS
If you’ve narrowed down your choices for bookstore point of sale software but still aren’t quite sure which way to go, it can be helpful to have a checklist of the most important features you’re looking for to help run your business. As a reference, here are just a few things that any top of the line bookstore POS should include:
If you’ve been in the book business for any amount of time, this will be an obvious one for you. International Standard Book Numbers are the way that books are tracked and their information is stored. A point of sale system with this feature can scan a book’s ISBN and the information (author, title, publisher, etc.) is stored and readily available.
If you are operating with a system that does not have ISBN scanning, the only way to record all of this data would be to enter it manually, something that raises my blood pressure just to think about. ISBN management is practically essential, saving countless hours of time for you or your employees and also cutting down on errors.
Strong customer management is a great feature for nearly any business but it can be especially useful for bookstore owners. Small bookstores and booksellers often pride themselves on the personal touch their employees can add to a customer’s experience. Having a customer management system in your POS that can store personal information and spending histories of customers can help employees track reading habits for future suggestions.
It can also help with marketing campaigns, allowing you to tailor promotions towards specific groups of customers and get them the information and offers that are most relevant to them.
Along those same lines, a robust loyalty program can also give your bookstore a huge boost. If a customer likes your bookstore, it’s likely they will be a repeat spender in the future. And one of the best ways to ensure that a customer will return is to offer rewards for purchases at your establishment.
Many loyalty programs will offer a number of ways for customers to rack up points, whether it’s by dollars spent or a certain number of items. Many will also have a way for customers to check their loyalty credits online and see how close they are to getting something for free or earning a discount, giving them plenty of incentive to visit your shop again.
For better or worse, in order to stay competitive in the book-selling industry, it’s nearly essential that you have at least some online presence. Fortunately, your point of sale system can help you set up a professional-looking website in a very short amount of time. This can open you up to new customers and dramatically increase your sales.
A strong eCommerce platform can also help customers place orders for books that you might not currently have in stock, allowing you to still get that sale. And, depending on the program, you can include a database of your current inventory and keep customers informed of new releases.
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; 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 KORONA, 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 feature sets, Lightspeed Retail or Vend might be your best bet.
If you’re still on the fence, feel free to browse our other POS reviews, and read this if you’re looking for a more detailed analysis of POS inventory management. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section as well, and we’ll try and steer you in the right direction!
In Summary: 5 Great POS Systems For Booksellers and Bookstores
- Lightspeed Retail POS: Best for bookstores that need robust inventory functionality, employee management, and built-in eCommerce.
- Vend by Lightspeed: Best for booksellers that are looking for robust functionality, including a built-in loyalty package and access to a wide variety of integrations.
- Square For Retail: Best for smaller or mid-sized operations that need simple, affordable processing with bulked-up inventory and back-end features.
- Shopify POS: Best for nearly any sized bookstore, but particularly those with an online presence.
- KORONA POS: Best for booksellers that need an affordable and simple point of sale system that is highly scalable.