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Call it an automated "bingo" card. Office-goods makers and merchants, long dependent on the U.S. mail to process queries about their products, are flocking to "demand publishing," a quickly evolving electronic genre in which the two-way routine is executed entirely by fax. In a typical marketing application, a purchasing manager who's seeking, say, the specs of a brand-name item or product line dials the vendor's dedicated phone on a fax (rather than a voice) handset. A recorded operator coaches the caller through a menu of choices, to which the caller responds by touch pad. After a brief hold, the requested information comes flooding in through the caller's fax machine.
Already on the line are global business-equipment sellers and resellers such as Lotus Development (617-253-9150), Logitech (510-713-0211), Intel (800-722-3953), Epson America (800-922-8911), CompuAdd (800-933-9002), and AST Research (714-727-4773). And specialty entities are joining in. Boston's Instant Information is a broker of used laptops (900-990-4251; $9.95 per call for offering lists). Computer Buying World, a monthly magazine, has a huge database of product specifications and prices (617-246-5089).
To sample demand publishing, pick up a fax handset and dial 503-690-6390. That's the demo line at FaxBack of Beaverton, Oreg., an industry-leading purveyor of the installations that make fax-back systems work. And to find office-equipment companies' shopping-by-fax numbers as they proliferate, keep reading magazine ads -- please. -- Robert A. Mamis