Technology Will Save Us

Josie Leavitt - April 26, 2011

It’s easy to despair when confronted with ever-constant barrage of news that books are dead. Every day folks come in for recommendations that they’re going to download on their e-readers, so in this electronic age, it’s sometimes the littlest things that can make a bookseller’s day.
Twice today customers thrilled me and made me realize that there’s hope for the book and book-related products.
The first was a customer who ordered an actual book on CD from us. She loved the book so much, she wanted to be able to listen to it again while she was driving to and from Boston. A CD! Someone actually wanted a book on CD. She didn’t want to download it — didn’t know how, truth be told. It had been a while since I’d sold a book on CD, I forgot they were discounted and almost charged her full price, which she happily would have paid. She then ordered two more books on CD for her summer trips. She loves having the CDs and knowing where she stopped and not having to worry about listening to a book on her son’s iPod that can shuffle the tracks.
The second customer came in to order a book she already downloaded. She had a parenting book on her phone and she loved it so much she wanted the actual book. This customer decided that reading a book, especially a reference-type book, on a three-inch screen was frustrating. She found it hard to switch back to chapters that she wanted to refer back to: “It’s impossible to take notes or underline. ” Her husband just didn’t understand why she needed two copies of the books. And she came to the realization that text on phone doesn’t necessarily make something into a book for her. When she left I breathed a sigh of relief.
So, if customers want to try technology, get disappointed, or feel the need to augment their experience, I am more than happy to be there to fill gaps and remind people that books are really a complete experience.

6 thoughts on “Technology Will Save Us

  1. Rinn

    E-books are the next naturally evolutionary step for the written word. There is great debate about this, but change in terms of book formatting is always slow to come and slow to change over.
    First there were chiseled tablets and runes. Then with the development of papyrus, scrolls. After that, hand binding was invented. These were the first true manuscripts (not what is erroneously known as a manuscript today. Manuscripts are hand written).
    Eventually came the printing press. And mass production. The birth of the modern publishing world.
    It was only natural with the concept of the computer and the inevitable desire to make a PDF document digital, there would be a designer and company willing to take the risk on the next step.
    It was the right choice.
    However. Much like there are diarist and authors who never ceased to write by hand…much as the manuscripts of old are considered precious, the OBJECT of the book will never disappear completely.
    There are instances where an E-book format is not suitable for publication. High quality print Art History Books (that usually cost $120 to the poor student) and graphic novels are a good example.
    There are also a multitude of book as object enthusiasts. And as much as I love the e-book and publish there, I am one of those people.
    I think what we will end up seeing in the long run is a better quality of object book with a higher price for the “fetishist.” (And by long, I mean like, maybe 40 years from now?)

  2. David Hutchison

    I’ve had a number of these types of experiences and they are wonderful when they happen. It’s always beautiful to hear people say “I’d like to buy the book from you and I’m willing to wait a few days to get it and pay full price because I value have a local, independent bookseller.” I have a customer who got a kindle for Christmas and uses it to read the first free chapter of books then calls me to place the order for a paper copy if he likes it enough. Technology can be our friend, and the friend of readers as well. I believe our great enemy is not the eReader, but whose clear mission is to monopolize all channels of book selling profit. They learned price and immediacy were the weapon they could wield against brick & mortar booksellers. They coopted used sellers by offering them an irresistible sales channel that has made used bookselling both Amazons #1 profit revenue stream and forced the majority of used sellers to use their reselling service. They are now on a warpath of bullying publishers with the kindle. They have begun buying POD publishers and starting their own imprints. Look to the near future for a larger publishing acquisition. And like McDonald’s who own the ranches to the heart attack waiting to happen in eleven year olds nationwide, expect Amazon to bring a similarly nutritious product to the market and create a new low standard in the world of publishing…

  3. Elizabeth Dulemba

    I totally agree with the referencing issue. Sometimes you NEED to be able to flip to… “I know I saw it on the right side of the page about 2/3rds of the way through the book…” 🙂 e

  4. Donna Paz Kaufman

    There are practical and emotional matters that are yet to fully unfold as we look at the need for print and electronic books. While the story unfolds, let’s keep standing for what we value and appreciate.

  5. Laer Carroll

    ebooks and “pbooks” each have advantages over the other, and disadvantages. Only idiots say one is “better” than the other. Often they complement each other rather than compete.

  6. Linda Garfinkel

    Josie’s impressions underscore the evolving wisdom that content should be portable. We often find ourselves explaining to our clients the value of “chunking” content and preparing it in multiple formats for just these reasons. The purpose of all of this is The Sale – it is missed opportunity to bet on a single format or two when the investment to do most and, in particular XML in preparation, will provide the agility required.
    Looking across the content format landscape coupled with a myriad of available technology solutions can be daunting. The key to the “right” (and I use that term loosely!) technology solution requires lots of thought, up front work and requirements planning prior to selecting a technology solution. The trick is to make sure you are in position for the future so that your sales opportunities can be met efficiently with rapid delivery.


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