Fixing bookstore showrooming.

/Fixing bookstore showrooming.

The other day I needed to buy a new cable from the Apple Store.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever bought a cable from the Apple Store, oh dear anonymous reader, but in case you haven’t, the process goes something like this:

  1. Walk into Apple Store, locate cable.
  2. Open Apple Store iPhone app.
  3. Use phone camera to scan cable’s barcode.
  4. Charge iTunes account for cost of the cable.
  5. Walk out of store with cable.

I remember the first time one of the Blue Shirt Kids in the store taught me how to do this, my response was literally, “Wow it’s like living in the future!”, to which she replied, “Well, we are a technology company.”

No shit. Wow. This is why Apple has enough cash in reserve to buy itself back from its own shareholders.

It’s also what I think of whenever I hear bookstores complaining about “showrooming“, i.e. people who come into bookstores to browse, then buy products on Amazon.

And, y’know what. I have a confession: I absolutely, 100% truly, do this all the time. Why? Well, a lot of reasons, ranging from “it’s my lunch break and the queue in the store is too long” to “meh, I’ll buy the ebook instead”.

But there’s one easy (well, conceptually easy, at least) thing that would “fix” people like me. Because here’s the experience I want to have:

  1. walk into bookstore, browse, find interesting title
  2. open bookstore’s phone app
  3. use phone’s camera to scan book barcode
  4. be presented with the option to buy the print book, ebook, or both (ideally, all print books should come with a free digital copy as well, but I’d also accept a bundled deal for no more than, say, a dollar over the print price… and yes I know this is dependent on publishers not the stores per se, but a girl can dream, right?)
  5. use in-app purchases to buy the book
  6. if applicable, download my (DRM-free) newly-purchased ebook onto my phone right there on the store’s free WiFi
  7. if applicable, walk out of the store holding my newly-purchased print book in my hand.

And there. Boom. Showrooming problem fixed. Game over. Wow. Much hard. Very Amazon.

For bonus points, the app should also link me to things like reviews and recommendations, bundled deals (“Download the entire Wheel of Time series now for just $59.99!”), and offer push alerts on preorders and series.

And, look. I know bookstores are struggling right now and don’t necessarily have the cash–not to mention UX know-how–in order to design something like this. Which is why I’m sure there’s some upstart young ecommerce dev company out there just itching to bang up a whitelabel version of exactly this, which can be quickly rebranded and on-sold to every single freakin’ bookstore chain from the multinational megastores to the corner mom ‘n’ pop genre shop.

So y’all get right on that, Silicone Valley. I gots me some books to buy.

2014-01-18T09:37:11+00:0018th January, 2014|Tags: books, bookstores, ebooks, print books, showrooming, xp|


  1. cavegirlmba 18th January, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    So true. The most amazing amazon experience for me: on a visit to Hongkong I decide to buy a new iPad cover. The shop assistant lets me pay on the spot, no queueing. Then he asks: Would you like an invoice sent to you? Sure, I say and prepare to help him note down my address. Done, he says and looks up from his handheld device with a smile. My phone signals an incoming mail. The bill has arrived.
    Delight and surprise, as they say at Apple.

    • Alis 18th January, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Hah, yes they do that one here, too. It can occasionally be borderline creepy (“how do they know it’s me!”) but… meh, lol.

      But that’s the thing about Apple; they know exactly what they’re selling, and it isn’t phones or iPad covers. It’s the Apple Lifestyle; aesthetically appealing, convenient, easy-to-use. Everything about their store–not to mention their products–sells that image.

      (Lulu Lemon is the other brand that’s really good at selling the lifestyle; your name makes me think of it because there’s an MBA case study about it, heh. XD)

      • cavegirlmba 18th January, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        You’re right. Lots of other companies would have made me freak out if they had done that, but with Apple I’m fine.
        Thanks for the Lululemon case hint, I did not know there was one – will check it out.
        Keeping up a consistently great brand is hard – see Lulu’s transparent pants problem and the discussions about their founder.

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