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Circulation Managers for publications use Fulfillment Systems to create mailing labels for magazines and to track subscriptions and billing. Interactive Fulfillment System (IFS) is one such software product created NexTech Systems Corp.

The software can cost as much as $10,000. The high price is due to the very small market (magazine publishers) and the high need for customization. Magazine subscriptions can create some hairy data problems.

For example, if you sell a 10-issue subscription (to be delivered over 12 months) the software must track the dates when each issue is sent out. In addition to this if you receive a payment of $10 for the subscription up-front the financial software must keep track of how many issues were sent out, since the customer might cancel or request a refund. That means that you only make $1 of the funds from the subscription available for company spending as each issue is served. The rest of the money must be held in an emergency account in case something goes wrong.

Needless to say the accounting can become very confusing. A good fulfillment system simplifies all of these problems. Unfortunately good fulfillment systems are rare. (and can cost as much as $100,000) IFS has been used at my company for nearly 10 years. It's a good system, but since the software is old it is woefully out of date. It still runs in a text-based DOS environment. Small publishing companies who cannot afford custom fulfillment systems have only a few newer products for in-house fulfillment to choose from. All of these are poorly made at present (2003) since they cannot be customized to the complex needs of magazines as well as the old, but sturdy IFS.

If someone created a highly configurable (open source even?) fulfillment system they might be able to make a buck or two setting it up and customizing it for small publishers.

Are you scared of the maths involved? Go on do it. I dare you.

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