I walked into a bookstore the other day, a very large bookstore, and had an epiphany. I know, that sounds like a one-liner for a stand-up comic. But, it’s true.
It was like being back amongst old friends. Those colorful, wise friends that know all about you — and have a plethora of information to share, if you ask.
I walked slowly to my favorite section, taking in all the other colorful friends along the way; a large portion of which I do not yet know.
Each step strengthened the reasoning, and logic of my epiphany. That epiphany being that print books, and book stores, in general, will never go out of business completely. And I dare say, will enjoy resurgence.
You see, when I walked into the bookstore, I went in with one thing in mind – to see what was ‘out there’ — on the market — for the categories I enjoy. I wanted the selection to fill me with the ideas, the subjects, the latest and greatest of the titles. In other words, what’s trending, what hooked me, and what absolutely compelled me to pick it from the shelf.
You can only do that at a bookstore.
You can only do that at a bookstore because the other system for perusing, and buying a book, cannot deliver the same experience. It, indeed, is designed to do just the opposite.
The other system, of course, involves using our computers, our smartphones and our other electronic gadgets to enable us a similar buying experience.
We go to a website, we look down a category or subcategory, and choose from the offerings. Or we refresh our choices, and begin the process again; only seeing what the search algorithm displays, each and every time. We may never see that title that hooks us, or compels us to pick it up, and look at it.
Yes, the Amazon book-selling model offers immeasurable choices. But people usually have to have a pretty good idea of what they want when they start looking. But, most of the time, when I’m seeking out a book, I don’t know what I want.
Before you scoff at me, I suggest you don’t know what you want, either.
Let’s play out an example – you are feeling a certain way and want advice about it, or want to cook, fix, or create a certain thing. Does a book pop into your head, and you exclaim, “I need The Savvy Sewer by Rhonda Thread-Needle?”
Of course not. You don’t know if such a book even exists.
You could go to a bookseller website and put in certain search terms, one after the other in an attempt to find such a book. However, depending on your terms, and the search algorithm, you may never see, or hear, of Ms. Thread-Needle’s book.
I’ve seen the folly of trying to outsmart the search engines, firsthand. My wife will search for something, and because of her search terms, never find it. I then enter my logical search terms and usually within a few clicks find the answer.
Does that mean my wife doesn’t know what she’s doing?
No. It means she’s looking for something, as she describes it. If all the possible answers were displayed across a shelf in front of her, she wouldn’t need to think like the search engine wants her to think. And she would find her answer.
And your book.
I think of the whole search engine thingy as a drive down the information superhighway; with many, many exits — each one with a one sentence, or a couple of word explanation sign, and a choice to make.
Make the choice, follow the path. Make another choice, and follow the path.
Finally you arrive at the destination, and you discover that the description of what you wanted isn’t what you would consider accurate from your standpoint at all. You found an answer to a series of questions. And with the information superhighway you can find, literally, any answer you want — if you search long enough.
But, the answer may not relate to your original question. It may, if you know precisely what you want in the first place.
To choose which book to purchase, and to see what is offered overall in all categories, I bypass the search quandary, and go to a bookstore. I can see, at a glance, what they offer in general, and then, as specifically as I need.
And If I’m still not satisfied with the choices on the shelf, I can speak with a living, breathing individual that can research the books that may interest me.
If the only formats we focus on consist of eBooks, and other electronic media, we are severely limiting the audience that may buy our works. We are counting out all those that may not have a computer, be away from their computers, or for some other reason, not have computer and Internet access.
I always picture someone who has fallen on hard times that needs my words of support and wisdom to pick themselves up, find that new career path, and to help them succeed in life. Should I require that they know before searching that my works, or something similar, exists?
Should I expect the search engine algorithm to yield my book? And, should I tell that person that just because he can’t afford Internet access right now, he can’t find an answer to his situation?
He may not know what he wants. He may not know that the answer, or that inspiration, lies amongst the shelves of friends available at the bookstore.
But once he steps inside, and discovers that moment of hope and inspiration, he will also realize that these dinosaurs called bookstores will never become extinct.
Images credits: bookstore in Portugal – bibliotecademaceda.blogspot dot com, writtenwordsbookstore dot com