Apparently They Call it Showrooming

amazonSalesI love my Kindle. I know that RMS calls it a swindle and abhors the DRM that makes it what it is. For me what it is a lightweight, reading platform with a battery that I never worry about charging, text that adjusts to my failing eyesight and a library in my suit pocket. I love that I can sample materials from the amazon store before I buy and that my library can be deployed across a series of linked devices. The cloud tracks my progress and keeps me synced and the whims of my personal reading preferences are catered for. All that said I love browsing at Hodges and Figgis and Dubray. I find many of the books I want to read in piles and on shelves in the stores. I want the showroom to get their brokerage cut. This doesn’t happen today and I want to figure out how it can. I am lead to understand that Amazon’s recent agreements with Waterstones affirms that I am not alone. There are a huge number of readers out there that use their eReader’s but need to feel the goods and prefer to browse in a bricks and mortar for their inspiration. A colleague the other day went so far as to suggest that Amazon fears the demise of the bookshop and that our engagement as readers would be disastrously impacted by the absence of the traditional shop. What do you think?

Here’s an article today from Geekwire highlighting this shift from the bricks and mortar to the online: Placed study reveals how Amazon is impacting brick-and-mortar retailers. This article focuses on the phenomenon of locating what you want at the storefront then acquiring it online. The author’s quantity a threat index for the storefront B&M vendors. There’s no doubt that this is a real threat. So what is the remedy? Can we geolocate where we browse and attribute a finder’s fee for the storefront showroom?

22 thoughts on “Apparently They Call it Showrooming”

  1. I am torn between the 2, reading a book is more an organic experience. The smell, feel and texture of the book is a totally different experience than kindle or reading from a web page.
    Kindle reading just involves one sense that of sight. However holding a book or buying a book is a more wholistic experience which engages additional sense and I find it easier to absorb information. My attention span on a kindle or laptop screen is short lived. I do recognise the value of reading from a cyber format in terms of saving trees and the ecology, however I find the experience of holding the written word more rewarding.

    1. Brian, I could have not expressed it better myself, with you all the way, haha!!!.

      My partner has Kindle/Swindle (ironically, it was a present from me) and she goes on and on about the advantages, quoting: smaller, slimmer and lighter than a book, effortless portability, ideal if you are reading various books at the same time but don’t want to carry them around, no need for a pen to highlight interesting sections, in-built clock and dictionary, adjustable font-sizes, readings available just 30 seconds after you decide you want them, etc, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

      I tell her that the battery in books lasts longer, books are more reliable than a few 1s and 0s put together, books come in all shape, forms and colors, if you buy physical books then they are yours to keep for good, if you lose/damage them they are cheaper and easier to replace, you are not infringing any law if you share your books, the inimitable smell & feel of paper and the memories it brings back, the illustration quality is much better in books (at least for now), and more importantly, how many Kindles do you need to fill a bookshelf, an indispensable adornment in any decent household, isn’t it???

      Still, I have the feeling that we are on the losing side here, the decision of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to announce the discontinuation of its print editions from last year could be a tell-tale sign.

      As painful as it may be, the new usually overtakes the old, but not necessarily extinguishing it. Proof is that in ancient times, stories used to be passed down between generations, then they were carved into stones, then they were put down on papyrus and scrolls, and eventually they were pressed into print. What’s next for the way we read?? Will books ever disappear?? Don’t know, but what I do know is that we still tell stories and we still practice calligraphy.

      1. I’m torn about this too. On the one side (to paraphrase David Simon, Creator of ‘The Wire’) whatever the future of books is, it probably doesn’t involve dead trees.

        However, the fact that Amazon can just recall books off your Kindle or delete/close your account with no recourse is just a bit too close to the ‘memory hole’ in 1984. Does anyone know if they can replace a book with a different edition without you knowing? What kind of books critising Amazon are available for the Kindle? What kind of books about hacking the Kindle are on the Kindle (Answer: at least one, in title anyway although it’s more of a ‘get the most out your device’ than a ‘how to root your kindle and replace the OS’) .

        So far I have just used and to indulge my book hunger and avoided using the Amazon Kindle Store altogether.

        But then, lurking as always, is the temptation of torrents and all those free books I could never afford. Unfortuanately, even with the public domain books it’s easy to build up a collection that you would never have enough time to read all of.

        Better get started.

        1. Paul completely agree. Was shocked when Stallman mentioned this. You never actually own your book on your kindle. You pay for it but its not really yours if Amazon can delete it.

  2. Brian: I would argue that there is a similar organ experience with the Kindle, but only insofar as industrial design and appreciation of a UI is concerned. Nonetheless to my mind organic. I read on a laptop in 1991 and then didn’t read a full length volume for a decade. Have had varying experiences with a variety of mobile devices subsequently. For me there has been a de-tehnologising that has taken place with the Kindle and it seems to work (for me). I actually do engage a sense of feel very much with a tablet or phablet and tempted not to discount that. However, also conscious of a certain utility that comes into play with the Kindle – a variety of new affordances…a library at finger tips. I do read differently on a KIndle, but also find it closest to the book experience (for printed word) that I have ever found. I think transmissive versus reflective screen technology is a big one for me.

    1. Shawn I can identify with Brian. You can’t get the smell of a new book on a Kindle :). While it is a great technology, I can’t see how it would ever be a complete replacement for the real deal. Although I could be wrong. For example, when the newspaper apps were introduced I thought will we see the end of the newspaper now? A couple of years on, people still like reading through their newspaper. The demand for paper is still there and will continue to be for a while yet I feel.

  3. As the father of a 3 year old who is at that age where she loves books, but is also starting to get tech-savvy, I really am in two minds here….

    On the one hand, it’s great seeing her just engrossed in kids books of all shapes, sizes and colors….

    On the other, there is no escape for young kids from technology like kindles, ipads, etc so I should really encourage her, right?? But the old “back in my day” (just like my father and grandfather) mentality keeps popping into my head and I can’t shake it…..any one else with kids/nephews/nieces having this dilemma?

    I also worry about how addictive smart phones and tablets can be….so it their addictive to adults, what will kids of today be like in 5-10 years – if current trends/fads are a sign, they’ll be wearing them on their wrists, heads, etc….do we really want to encourage them even more to “read” books on these devices we really want all kids using a tablet device instead of schoolbooks…what kind of effect is that likely to have on the eyes after 15-20 years?? Sorry if this is a little off-piste but I think it’s something that should be considered…

  4. The eyesight point is a good one and one i think about a lot. I would like to have a look at some studies that have delved into the topic of the comparisons of reading a book compared to reading text on a computer screen/kindle/phablet over time, it would be interesting to see what the results are. I think the reading of a physical book would be kinder to the eyesight in my personal opinion.

    To unwind at the end of every day, i think it’s a good idea to have the radio, tv, kindle, pc, phone, in other words all electrical items powered off as you get ready to turn in for the night. Alternatively reading a book instead of the kindle option. I have tested this on myself and have found i am able to drift of to sleep easier with a better quality of sleep without the interaction of said electrical devices.

    The question does enter my head Stephen, about nurturing them into the introduction of technology from an early age, or keeping them at a distance until a reasonable age, what would the reasonable age be though?
    I have a Samsung smartphone with Android ICS OS on it, and i am just amazed at how quick my friend’s 4 year old son was able to unlock the phone go into some of the various apps and instinctively know how to use the apps/games on it. Technology is really advancing at an alarming rate, and the age that we start to use it seems to be getting earlier and earlier.
    My friend’s son (same one that took over my Samsung) has a Nintendo DS games console, they manage the time that he spends on it. He gets an allowance or a quota if you like of an hour or two each evening before he hands it over. This is one technique i suppose that could help to curtail over usage of technology in the young.

    I don’t ever think bookshops will fully disappear. They may diminish and become less apparent than they once were but i think everything operates in cycles. If bookshops do disappear, they will come back at some stage as the new ‘retro thing’ similar to games consoles of old. People i know are going crazy trying to buy up the first Nintendo NES 8 bit entertainment systems etc

  5. I agree with both Alan and Stephen regarding striking a balance with the use of technology and the responsible parenting of our children. Kids now have an intuitive sense and no fear of technology. They experiment and learn. However it is down to us as parents to set boundaries, highlight possible dangers and I am thinking here of lazy parenting here, where some parents let there kids have total unencumbered access to mobile phones, i-pads and other electronic devices.

    One case of lazy parents in America was a case of parents who left their toddler play games constantly, there was no parental or other interaction with the child and the first word the child learned was Kill!.

    Also from personal experience with my own children their most cherished memories are of a parent reading them bedtime stories, Matilda and Harry Potter etc and they still remember the stories with fondness, which helped nurture their love of reading.
    If a kindle could talk which would the child prefer, a story read from a book by their parent or from a kindle. As tired parents it is tempting to give them the kindle, but as responsible caring parents we know in most cases the child would prefer the story read by the parent.
    Again Stephen has pointed out possible medical issues, eyesight, hearing and possible cancer which has not been fully document.

    Do we give our children sweets all the time because they like them.

    And I would agree Shawn that Kindle has tried to replicate the organic experience of a book, with the page turning and the look and feel, however my attention span on a kindle is not as good as it would be with real book.

    The above aside how would Kindle deal with the experience of comics, I grow up reading the X-men, Captain America, Dr.Strange, Bizarre Tales and Batman, remember we had no internet and no mobile phones etc. For me the feel of the paper, the colour and the art work of Marvel and DC comics would be difficult experience to transfer to a Kindle.

    1. Hi Brian

      Completely agree with you. My mam and dad used to read very nice bedtime stories to me as a kid and they still are very fond memories. Those stories meant more to me because my parents read them to me.

  6. PS. A kid in Bristol clocked up a bill of £1,700 on his parents I-pad playing a free game, where he unknowingly purchased weapons for the game. Apple have refund the money after all the negative publicity, however does raise the question of how often this has happen.

  7. Although the focus here is on books I think the showrooming concept is much wider. The savings that can be achieved by sourcing some items, for example; musical instruments, on line is overwhelming. It is fair to say that many people are test driving products in “real” stores before ordering on line, and with a saving of 60% who could blame them. However, many people still prefer to deal face to face with the shop. This could be all good news for the customer, with shops working harder now to build trust, and etailers developing ways to improve the personal touch

  8. I didn’t know it was called “showrooming” but I’m guilty as charged. Then again, I think we all have also done the opposite (is it called “onlining”??), research an item online (especially other consumer’s reviews) and then drive to the stores to buy it. In my case I’d say 60/40.

    Buying online and going shopping to a physical store are 2 very different experiences. Price is not always the deciding reason (at least in my case), there should be more factors coming into the equation. Online might guarantee you the best possible deal (although not always) and may put every item, make and model at your fingertips, but sometimes a few flattering pictures and a brief description that has been tailor-made to make the product appear flawless is not enough.

    There’s something to be said about walking into a shop and meeting the salesperson, experience the customer service aimed at retaining your business, feeling a sense of community, satisfying the compulsion of getting what you want right then and there and having the reassuring security of knowing that you can walk back into the store at anytime to voice a grievance in person should anything go wrong with your purchased goods.

    In a traditional brick-and-mortar store you can feel the merchandise, you can interact with it, see it, touch it, smell it, try it. Let’s not forget that we are living organisms after all, and there’s something strangely gratifying about indulging our senses.

    From an anthropological point of view, and just like our ancestors experienced it a million years ago, we are still atavistically hardwired to seek the rewarding sensation of “getting out there” and actually “hunt down” the goods we need and then bring it all back home with you (sod delivery charges), a feeling that is missing when you just sit in your pyjamas in front of your laptop and just enter your credit card details.

    We can’t ignore either the fact of a certain negative stigma still attached to online retailers. I’m talking about rogue traders, restocking fees, no-return clauses, a lack of a storefront which makes it really difficult to contact customer services departments, etc.

    I think that like everybody else, there are things that I would only acquire in a conventional shop, things that I do buy online and things that can go either way depending on the circumstances, but regardless of what , how and where I buy, the internet has become an indispensable part of my shopping habits.

    So going back to the issue in question, yes, I would agree that overall the “showrooming” phenomenon is on the rise, and brick-and-mortar businesses will have to come up with new strategies to cope with it. Here’s a good article with some solutions:

  9. I like the oldfashioned way – it has been habit forming but I love to go into book shops and browse around, have a cup of coffey and read my new book. Then I love stacking them up on my shelves at home to give the place a homely feel. I do like reading on iBooks but only when I’m going away or to get a book that may not be available in the shops. I’m a fan of the oldfashioned book and there are many like me. Some of the books tesco sell at €5 are much dearer to purchase on the kindle.

  10. I think Bezos stated before without the bookstore his online empire would have not grown. It was store fronting that he needed to generate profits. People (I) rarely buy a new book without a flick through them or without knowing the author. This was prior to the trail chapter preview on the Kindle. Bezos has progressed yet again and you can now lend books to people.
    Storefronting is not a new phenomenon in Ireland. Sony has used it in Ireland to great effect in the 1980’s, dropping in Sony centres of worship into the retailers without having to have a bricks and mortar store. You pick a premium retailer (aka Shmuck) offer the exclusivity, attract customers, if they don’t have lots of disposable incoming to purchase at above cost rates, then they would purchase abroad or online. Peats let the deal lapse when people purchased PlayStations in Newry.
    Theresa coffee in bookstores wasn’t all that common and is now expected and habit forming. I don’t think that experience can be beaten but, I’ve started buying ebooks online. There is a kindle app on the and my WP7 and I really like the way I can switch between the two when I need too. The app is not as good as the kindle itself. For 89 euros in Tesco’s I’m tempted to buy one, it’s a cool device.

    1. Hi Kevin. I tried the Kindle app on the iPad and iPhone. Its terrible. Try iBooks – its great. I am more of a fan of apple sorry 🙁 . In iBooks you can get free books (although they are not great), view them in colour, adjust the light settings. On the Kindle PaperWhite, you can only view books in black and white. Now I know the Kindle Fire is going to be a whole lot different.

      I looked into buying a surface tablet and Powercity, pcworld and Harvey Norman advised me that they would not sell me one because they could not guarantee that the constant pulling of the keyboard away from the tablet would not break the device. I looked into office 2013 and windows 8 and decided against it. I was advised that in order to keep using office 2013 in future years I would have to keep renewing my office license subscription. So I am looking at purchasing a MAC instead.

      Loads of my friends in work have the kindle and love it but they are still using the hard backs from tesco at real cheap prices. When I worked in Leinster house, I used to take a trip to the bookstores for example waterstones, have a read and have a coffey. I still do this on my way home during the summer. They have a coffey book club in work where they share books around. Easons in O’Connell Street is always full of people and you can have your coffey there with a read. Reads / Easons on Nassau Street is always packed with people browsing through books.

      For college, I prefer the hardback book because I can sribble notes in it quite conveniently and I find it doesn’t strain my eyes as much. it also gives me a break from the computer and keeps me away from the distractions of the computer e.g. email, facebook etc. I really find the paperback better for uninterrupted study and concentration.

      Another thing is childrens books with pop up pages and colouring books – I don’t think you get the same effect on a computer.

      I do professional calligraphy in my spare time. I would not refer to computer books for this as this is something that isn’t related to the technology age and I have built a collection of books over time. It is nice to have something on paper from time to time to create an effect.

      If the eReader has evolved from paper books and paper books dissapear, what effect will this have on our future generations.

      I know people who also stick to the paper book because they look at computers all day and its nice to have a break from them. They can’t face any electronic device in the evening. While ibooks etc is very good and the “Swindle” was a great idea it won’t capture or replicate the essence of the oldfashioned book in my opinion. Kindle seem to be the leaders or the sole inventor of the eReader. They applied for a trademark here in the 80s and this device has been a product of many years of invention and work. I found this when I went to research their patents for my law assignment. The intellectual property side of this looks very interesting as there does appear to be many devices out there that are infringing on the intellectual property of the Kindle.

      I think I’ll save myself €89

  11. Some very good comments guy. I agree with both sides its very easy to put hundreds of book titles on your kindle or other e reader and then head off on your travels knowing the reader
    will fit nicely in your pocket. Then there’s the other side will these readers lead to the end of the bed time story for children ? there’s nothing like a reading a bed time story to a child the look of excitement and anticipation on their face as they wait for you to turn to the next page and the learning they absorb from the pictures contained in the book.

    Also how many parents have busy life’s working all ends of the day trying to make a living
    this maybe the only time that get to spend with their children.

    Then there’s the long term health implications of using these devices for long periods
    time I agree with Alan I like see the results from some studies on the effect on body
    Should young children be exposed to these devices for long periods of time ?

    Finally I think most of us at some stage have done show rooming the hassle of getting something returned whether it be a book or a piece of clothing if its not right so its nice to be able to read it, try it on before buying it online at potentially cheaper price who of us doesn’t like a bargain

  12. I plant my feet firmly on the Kindle side.

    Although I do agree the Kindle can’t compete with the feeling, smell etc. of a real book, there is no question as to what I’ll be bringing with me on my holidays! The Kindle is just too damn convenient.

    That said, I do not actually own a Kindle myself, I enjoy my reading on my smartphone or tablet, using the Kindle App. Funny thing; Kindle- and physical book- evangelists alike condemn smartphones and tablets as a terrible reading platform, I guess due to it not being ink or e-ink.

    I like reading on my phone or tablet though, and I’ve over 50 books on mine, most of which I once had on my bookshelf (gave them to a second hand book store).

    Keeping your books electronically saves so much space, and you can have all your books with you anywhere you go. Those two arguments alone make it worthwhile for me.

    Viva technologia!

  13. I purchased the Paperwhite version in Tesco’s. It’s the dogs, much better than an app. No horse’s where harmed in the making. I’ve bought 16 books in 2 days, 4 of which I have a paper version of

  14. I would have to admit to showrooming particularly it equipment. I often see something i want to buy online then go into pc world and have a look and sometimes even demo the item then go online and purchase it for maybe 20-30% less. I think without the bricks and mortar shops to look at or test the products I would have to do a lot more research online before committing to buying a product and would probably buy less items overall. As regards the discussion on kindle v books I would be of the opinion “each to their own”

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