The eBook is getting very, very interesting. It has inspired one of the wackier posts I have ever written ...
WIRED blog epicenter says the Barnes & Noble brick and mortar locations gives it a huge advantage, which is my gut instinct, too.
This eBook latecomer, founded in 1873, has something Amazon cannot replicate: 1,300 or so physical locations (including college stores) across all 50 states. Ironically, the same high-overhead stores that helped Amazon undercut Barnes & Noble’s book prices could give the bricks-and-mortar retailer an advantage at selling e-book readers, for at least three reasons.
First, Barnes & Noble’s stores give consumers a place to play with the nook, the Que, and other e-book-reading devices the chain plans to sell, before taking the e-book plunge. This is crucial, because e-books represent a far bigger leap for readers than the one music fans made when they switched from CD to MP3 players that let them use the same headphones. Readers who are reticent to forgo “dead tree” reading material for some new-fangled gizmo might change their minds after seeing the nook and Que proReader in action.
On the other hand, the only way to test a Kindle before you buy is if you can borrow one. And while you can test-drive the Sony e-book reader at Sony Style stores, there are only 50 or so of those nationwide, and other retailers that sell that device don’t allow customers to try them out
The intermix of online and meatspace retailing is, well, mixed. Gateway famously faceplanted with its meatspace effort. I even visited one, and was a loyal Gateway(2000!) customer. (I loved them for the ads in PCMag, but those were the days, eh Jimmy?). And then there's the Apple Store. A huge success so far, and probably the engine for continuous near-term dominance in iPods and now smart phones.
Sony Style has been a mixed effort, I think. Of course, I did get my first physical touch of an e-Book there. And I've been fascinated by the undead nature of Radio Shack. What DO they sell? I mean, I bought my first laptop there actually - a Tandy? And I keep finding myself there once a year. But every time I walk by a Radio Shack in the mall (any mall), it just feels like a massive decades-long missed opportunity.
Keep in mind that I am, as many Kauffman folks are, a Kindle early adopter. My 1.0 Kindle is here beside me as a write. (I know, I know, I said I never early adopt. But if this hint doesn't get me a free review version of a 3 or, dare I say, 4 -- which I apparently have to disclose or refuse or something, as if I were a President getting honored by foreign royalty -- then what is this blogging any good for?)
Speaking of missed opportunities, maybe the marriage of virtual and actual reality is an essential part of any 21st century business plan. If so, what should online retailers do?
My advice: Jeff Bezos should get Amazon in the brick and mortar space in a big way. He knows better than to get tied down with a chain of stores in malls and strip malls where his baby would morph into the Radio Shack of tomorrow. No, what he needs is a theme park sized Ultimate Store. Like the Pyramids of Giza and the Library of Alexandia combined.
It should be a wonder of the world ...and could double as a warehouse if you think about it. Put the Amazon Pyramid somewhere in the middle of the continent... though astride the Missippi river would be ironically bizarre. Maybe Denver. Or hey, why not Kansas City?
- It could have rides like a theme park -- Disney did it for Milne's Pooh, why not for Rowling's Harry Potter?
- It could have amazing authors give guest lectures and shows every night and day -- Vegas does it for Celine Dion, why not Stephen King? Why not Steve Martin? Why not Steve Wozniak??
- It could have long tail sections for every four and five word category imaginable. SF/SpaceOpera/Hard/Postsingularity. There is no meatspace analogy here, which is why it would be so cool!
- And don't forget, comic books are BOOKS. Marvel and DC would want to partner with Amazon instead of Disney. Wait, scratch that.
And best of all, I would go there. Every summer. With my kids. And we wouldn't lose them, like we do at Barnes and Noble sometimes. And instead of partnering with Starbucks, they could partner with Red Bull and party all night. Maybe it's just a small minority of us who are freaksih book lovers, but the final test of any genius idea is solpsistic: I think my idea is great. And remember: You read it here first!