I didn’t think that trying to buy a book in a bookstore could become such a frustrating experience. The book I was seeking is Chris Brogan and Julien Smith‘s Trust Agents. Yesterday I heard this long-awaited book was available in Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores all over the country. I rushed to the nearest Barnes and Noble and checked on their computer the availability of the book. It was supposed to be on the shelves in the Business section. I spent quite a long time looking through all the books and couldn’t find it. A very helpful clerk checked on the computer, helped me look on the shelf and puzzled, decided to check in the backroom. He came back empty handed and told me the book must have been misplaced and I should order on line. I thanked him and moved to Borders across the street. The exact same experience was waiting for me with the same result and the same puzzling answer: “Order on line”. Being a stubborn person I went home and started calling the other bookstores a little further around: exact same answer. There is a copy of the book somewhere in the store but we can’t find it. Order on line!
Why do I even bother writing about this story? First of all, because I hate being a frustrated reader. Second and more importantly, because it made me think about the growing importance of the e-commerce on every economic activity – whether it is books or wines. Borders as well as Barnes and Noble pretend to have a book in their stores and then recommend the customer who took the time to walk or drive to the store, peruse the shelves and ask for help to order on line. Indeed by ordering on line the book price is discounted and shipping is free. Good for the consumer (maybe?) but is it good for the company? As a customer I thought very inconsiderate of them to waste my precious time. It reflects poorly on their image and professionalism and next time I badly need a book, I won’t go to the store. Will I order on line from them? Certainly not! Still sulking after my useless walks and phone calls, I got on line and ordered from Amazon.com!
Does it mean that those two companies want to downsize their stores or even close some of them after they got their customers to order on line? It could be. This is good news for the e-commerce and the consumer but bad news for the local economic life of many small towns or suburbs. Is it possible this business model applies to the wine industry? Boutique wines are usually not available in supermarkets. Mass market wines are not available in independently owned wine stores that usually carry more exclusive and should I say interesting? wines. The two business models are acting parallel to each other without interfering with each other. Both are now facing the competition of the e-commerce through wine clubs and mostly wine sites, such as wine.com, snooth.com, thewinespies.com and many others. Thanks to the diversity of the distribution ssystem (within its frustrating limits), wine consumers have now more choice of places and ways than book readers to buy their favorite ones.
What will become of the poetic image of a person reading a book with a glass of (good) wine in hand in a few years? History…