Information for retailers new to bookselling

Selling books is the latest cool thing in retailing! Whether you're an existing retailer adding books to your merchandise mix or a new bookseller just getting started, we’ve put together this information page to help you find your way around.

Watch our webinar about this topic! (Length: 57 min)

Canadian book supply chain basics

If you're new to book purchasing, or if books are only a small part of the products you carry, you may need a bit of an orientation to the Canadian book supply chain.


Publishers contract with authors to bring books to the market. They employ editors, production staff, and sales reps who sell their books into the market. Publishers also publicize and market their books and authors in the marketplace.

Sales Agents

Some publishers choose to sell their books through commissioned sales rep groups rather than employing internal sales reps. These rep groups typically specialize in book sales and represent many publishers. Most publishers will list their sales representation by territory or province on their website, or can put you in touch with their sales team if you contact them directly.


Distributors are the companies that manage the order fulfillment to retailers and other buyers like wholesalers and libraries. Some publishers distribute their own products, but most small or mid-sized publishers work with a distributor to manage this part of the business, and distribution rights are exclusive to the contracted distributor in Canada.

You’ll need to set up an account with each distributor that you want to order from. Each distributor will have their own terms of trade, including discounts, order minimums, shipping, and returns.


Wholesalers also fulfill orders to retailers. They purchase books from the exclusive Canadian distributor and resell to retailers. Typically, their terms of trade will be less favourable, but this source may be useful when popular books are out of stock at the distributor, or when a wholesaler may be able to ship to you more quickly.

CataList can help you determine where to send your orders! Read on for all the details.

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CataList for retailers

CataList is a central location on the web where the majority of publishers with books releasing in Canada post their catalogues. These catalogues contain a wealth of bibliographic data about publishers' titles, including the distribution supply details.

You can browse CataList catalogues and use the search features to find information without logging in. If you want to get a general sense of what’s available or coming soon or if you want to do some initial research, this is a great place to start.


If you're interested in getting greater access to the full title list and retailer tools, like supplier availability details, interiors and samples, advanced reading copy requests, and order creation, you’ll want to sign up for an account. The best news? Accounts are free!

All you need to do is go to and request an account.

You’ll need to provide your name and email address, the name of your store, and a link to your website, if available. We do need to validate that you are a book retailer, so please provide as much information as you can, and we’ll set up your access within the next business day.


Creating orders in CataList and submitting them to distributors

The CataList system facilitates information distribution on new and active titles in the supply chain, and allows retailers to create orders — but the actual placement and fulfillment of orders happens directly between you as a retail buyer and your sales reps or distribution partners.

If you're planning to create orders in CataList, you MUST contact each distributor you wish to order from, to set up an account which will determine the terms for your purchases, and determine how orders will be submitted.

How do I determine which company distributes a title?

CataList provides many ways to look at the publisher’s bibliographic data, but the key data elements to look for are:

  • Supply detail;

  • Canadian distributor; and

  • Stock availability.

In grid views, look for the distributor data in the Canadian Supplier column. If you don't see this column, you can customize your catalogue and search grids to display it.

On the title detail page, there is a Supply Detail box with the distributor's details in the left sidebar. If the distributor provided us with the current price and availability status, we'll display them in the Stock Availability section.

How do I place my order using CataList?

For help with how to create orders, see our user documentation on creating orders in CataList.

Once you have created an order, you should ensure that all titles on the order are going to the same distributor.

If you're working with a sales representative, confirm with your rep how they prefer to receive orders from you, and whether you need to also submit orders directly to the distributor. You do have the ability to submit orders to reps within the CataList system, but you should ensure the rep is expecting to receive orders from you using that method.

If you're working with a point of sale (POS) system, you may also want to export your order from CataList and import it into your POS to save manual data entry time. If you’ll be placing a lot of orders, you may wish to set up EDI ordering through your POS, which allows you to send orders electronically to suppliers — and for suppliers to acknowledge receipt of your orders, along with confirmations on product availability and current pricing.

If you're using WordStock, you can export from CataList directly into the WordStock POS system. Find out how.

Frequently asked questions

Have more questions? Check out these frequently asked ones! If your question is not answered here, you can send it to

CataList is a publisher subscription service, so not all publishers post catalogues on CataList or post all of their available backlists. That said, most large publishers, and many smaller ones, do subscribe! We currently have more than 675,000 listed titles, and that grows every season. You can browse the participating publisher list in the left sidebar on the CataList home page.

CataList supports Excel and CSV exports from catalogues and search results. You can customize the columns for these exports.

If you find that you need additional data that is not included in the exports — for example, book descriptions, contributor biographies, or book cover images — BookNet offers more extensive access to data through the BiblioShare data aggregation system, using web services or custom data pulls (a paid service). CataList sources its data from BiblioShare, so you’re accessing the same data from both systems.

The price listed in CataList is the price for consumers, and it's typically the same price that’s printed directly on the book. Retailers will usually have a discount percentage applied against this price. You’ll need to check the terms and conditions of your account with the specific distributor or wholesaler to determine your price.

You can also check the Stock Availability section in CataList for discount code information. Note that some titles, particularly those in the professional or higher education market, may have lower percentages (that is, a “short discount”) applied.

Typically this is not required for booksellers; however, overall order minimums are likely required. Check with your sales representative or distributor to confirm their order requirements.

Other resources for information

Here are some other resources that new booksellers may find helpful.

  • CIBA — The Canadian Independent Booksellers Association

  • RCC — The Retail Council of Canada

  • The Canadian Book Market — Get annual data on book sales and consumer book purchasing behaviour in this paid report.

  • BookNet Research — Get industry research reports, many of which are available for free!

  • BookNet Blog — Browse our blog to find recent data about book buyers, discover how to leverage the power of BookNet Canada’s tools and services in your operations, and read interviews with booksellers about a wide range of topics of interest.

  • Tech Forum — Looking for a deeper dive into bookselling topics? Review past presentations and panel discussions from Canada’s book supply chain conference, and sign up to hear about upcoming sessions.

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