Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday: Excuses, excuses

It's the season of Lent, that exciting time of sacrifice and self-examination...I'm using it to put in some extra hours at the bookstore and catch up with the backlog that seems to still be there from Christmas or Winter Institute or something. Hopefully our webpage, our events series, our sales floor, and our overcrowded back office will be the better for it.

Then there's wedding planning -- an all-too-delicious distraction, which does take up a certain amount of a girl's time.

Which leaves blogging time scarce, again. So check out my posting from Friday and weigh in on what Max from the Millions calls the "Widget Wars": Amazon Look Inside!, Google Book Search, HarperCollins Browse Inside, and Random House's Insight (the last two partnering with BookSense), in an effort to... make shopping online more like browsing a bookstore? Compete for demanding digital customers? Just make sure we've got what everyone else has got? The goals of the various projects are as debatable as their success, and the jury is still out on which will emerge as part of our new online lives. I'm curious to hear what you think.

P.S. If you've emailed me about having your blog or bookstore listed in my links, thanks! The spirit is willing, but the scheduling is weak. I'll add some new links as soon as I have a minute to wrestle with the Blogger back end. Keep sending them along!

1 comment:

Andy Laties said...

Well I posted "Rebel Bookseller" on Google BookSearch and made it 100% readable at no charge to readers. I did this because the book seems to be so poorly stocked by bookstores!

They have a back-end where I can see how many pages are being read and how many people are reading it. Some days five or six people seem to read dozens of pages, apiece. As an author and activist, I'm glad people have access to my ideas.

I also supplied the book to Amazon's search-inside-the-book function, and immediately my sales via Amazon jumped from nothing to about 30 copies a month (over the past year or so).

This is of course about the most ironic turn of events for a book that advocates people should open storefront bookstores: these online readers of my book would generally be people who are considering opening a storefront bookstore! This is very informative. People who are thinking about opening a storefront bookstore can also be people who are comfortable with virtual life, and, obviously, comfortable and familiar with online book-perusing mechanisms.

Which is DEFINITELY a hopeful thing. Knowledge is power. In an era when a new storefront bookstore has an owner who's her/himself comfortable reading books on the computer screen, this person's newly opened storefront bookstore will surely take such forms of customer access to books for granted, as a background reality.

This storefront bookseller will surely understand that their storefront must be a LOT more than just a place where people go to buy a book.

So: should storefront bookstores somehow tap into this truth that books can be assessed and read online? Sure. The only question is, "In what manner?" While putting links onto our stores' websites to searchable texts seems fine, I wonder if there are some ways that online book-searchability would play a part in the in-storefront/in-person experience. For instance, at Vox Pop, we offer Wi-Fi access, and people spend a lot of time on their laptops, sipping coffee, while surrounded by our physical books. Presumably they could be looking at books online while sitting in our real-world bookstore! I wonder if there's a structure/offer/policy that we could develop. Involving "our expert booksellers" and "one zillion online-readable books" and "overnight shipping"?

(I'd note that there's still no online back-end-service-provider that offers "widget-reader" functionality to small press books. So "Rebel Bookseller" won't be available for searchable display on Booksense or ANY indie-bookstore website anytime soon. I will have to rely on Google until then.)