Turning a blind eye

I want to start by thanking Cedar for stepping in and handling MGC last Tuesday. This past week has been more than a bit trying and there was simply no way I could have blogged then. Life is slowly returning to normal and I will try to do Cedar proud today but I warn everyone that the brain is still a little battered around the edges after everything that’s happened this week. Anyway. . . .

There has been a lot of talk over the last week or so about the latest Author Earnings report. AAP report and now John Scalzi’s take on it all. If you want to read more about what Scalzi had to say about the two reports, you can check out this article on Teleread or check out what the Passive Voice has to say. I guess no one should be surprised to know that Scalzi puts more credence into the AAP report — the one put together by supporters of traditional publishing — than he does the AE report (indie publishing). After all, look at what camp he happens to be in and where his paycheck comes from.

From Teleread: He [Scalzi] scoffs at the latest Author Earnings figures on the basis of “the source [being] unabashedly pro-indie (and less-than-subtly in my opinion anti-publishing)” and thence opines that publishers know exactly what they’re doing in raising the price of e-books. They’re intentionally protecting the print market, Scalzi believes, at least insofar as the strategy touches on novels.

Of course publishers are protecting the print market. With Author’s Guild finally demanding traditional publishing amend their contracts so that authors receive a larger percentage of royalties for e-books, it makes sense for publishers to try to protect the remaining portion of their business where they get the lion’s share of royalties. For the last how many years have we heard from traditional publishing (and again I have to say Baen is the exception) that they have basically the same expense in making an e-book that they do a print book. They have even tried to make that argument fly when the print — and possibly two to three print versions — of the book already exist. We’ve been told e-books have to be edited and set (as in print set) and new covers, etc. That argument has finally gone the way of the dodo because there are too many of us out there in the trenches who know just how wrong that argument is and we’ve been letting others know.

So now, with the print market continuing to shrink, publishers are doing what they can to protect that market at the expense of the digital market. They continue to fail to recognize that their business model is outmoded and out-dated. Instead, they blame Amazon for their problems. After all, it is so much easier to blame someone else for your failings than to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that the problem rests with you.

But let’s continue with what Scalzi has to say.

Investing time in strengthening alternate retail paths makes sense in that case, especially if, as the article suggests, consumers are happy to receive the book in different formats for an advantageous price. If people fundamentally don’t care if they read something in print or electronic format, as long as they get a price they like, that leaves publishers a lot of room to maneuver.

As Teleread noted, this is part of Scalzi’s point that what publishers are doing is an anti-Amazon strategy. Hmm. So, before we get into the economics of what he says, let’s look at the alternatives to Amazon. I live in a large metropolitan area. There was a time when there were, by a quick mental count, half a dozen or so bookstores within a ten mile radius of where I live. Two were chains and the rest were locally owned bookstores. Then came the big box stores like Bookstop which was followed by Borders and then Barnes & Noble. The two chains were bought up by the big box stores and the mom and pop stores were run out of business. Flush with their success, Borders and Barnes & Noble, as well as one or two other national chains, expanded and expanded and expanded and then started to go bust. Now Barnes & Noble is the only major chain store still standing, at least in this part of the country, and a number of their stores down here have closed. In that same ten mile radius, there is one B&N and it is more than a bit difficult to get to because of its location. Lousy parking, worse traffic and an indifferent staff. Yeah, right, that is where I’m going to go to buy my books. Not.

But let’s look at the economics of what Scalzi claims. Without taking into account the time and cost to drive somewhere, if I go to my local B&N, I will pay full-price for a book unless it happens to be on sale. But, Amanda, you can get their membership card. Yes, but I won’t. You see, I remember when those loyalty cards were free. All you had to do was fill out the information and give them an email address. Now, you pay $25 a year for the same thing. For that, I would get 40% off of their hard cover best sellers (and note when you look at their membership page, it doesn’t say if that is NYT best sellers, B&N best sellers or what) and 10% off almost everything else (of course there are exceptions). Oh, and I would get free express shipping on orders from BN.com (again with exceptions). Hmm. Nope.

Let’s look a bit deeper. Say I want to get J. D. Robb’s latest book. Devoted in Death is now available in hard cover and e-book. The price set by the publisher is $27.95. I can order it right now from B&N for $19.16 for hard cover or $13.99 for e-book. I can get it from Amazon for $18.88 or the same $13.99 for e-book.  I wouldn’t buy either of them from either store. Why? I don’t buy hard covers except for a very few authors any longer. Between declining quality of the actual book itself — not the writing or editing — and the lack of space, I have become a lot more picky about what I buy. As for the e-book, I refuse to pay that much for an e-book novel. I might pay it for a “boxed set” but not for a single e-book that is less than 400 pages.

But that’s me. Let’s go back and look at Scalzi’s assertion above. First, the sort of pricing we are seeing from publishers is not advantageous to anyone but the publishers. People aren’t as dumb as they seem to think. We know that an e-book doesn’t have the same amount of expense associated with it that a print book does. There are no physical resources necessary for an e-book such as paper, ink, press, physical storage and transportation — both to and from the distributor. Yet, they seem to think we are happy paying print prices for an e-book. They are not looking at the way indie and small press digital sales continue to climb while that trend for traditional publishers has slowed, especially after going back to an agency-like pricing.

There is something else folks like Scalzi forget — the generation that grew up loving physical books is aging. Our kids and grandkids are the tech generation. They live with their smartphones or tablets attached at one hand. They want and expect to be able to find a “book” quickly and have it instantly delivered to their phone or tablet or laptop. But they are also smart — hopefully — about their money. My son looks at the price differences between hard cover, soft cover and digital and will walk away from an e-book priced over $10. His basic response is why should he pay that much for a single book when he can go to Baen and get a month’s worth of releases for less than $20? He gets seven e-books for $18. That is a much better deal for him than buying a single e-book for $13.99 or more. Even if he doesn’t like a book or two from the bundle, he still has more than a few books that will entertain and engage him.

But, according to Scalzi and others, it is all about Amazon being bad.

I could go on. After all, Scalzi calls into question the methodology for gathering and reporting the AE data. I find that more than a little humorous (and possibly duplicitous) considering he is championing the AAP numbers which are reported by publishers that rely upon Bookscan numbers (see Cedar’s post on Tuesday, linked above, for more on just how “reliable” Bookscan is not). Oh, and there is the allegation that the AE findings are suspect because of the pro-indie and anti-traditional publishing stance of AE. Isn’t that sort of the pot calling the kettle black since Scalzi is pro-traditional publishing?

I guess this is all a case of which side do you fall on and how do you read the data. For me, I know what my sales have been over the last five years or so. I’ve seen them go up each year, not only as indie publishing has gained more and more traction but as I’ve put out more work. I know that I know make more in a year on my science fiction and fantasy than I would in a traditional advance for a new author (which I would be seen as by most publishers) from most traditional publishers. So tell me again why the AE report is bad and the AAP report is good.

The truth is, traditional publishing is going to hang on, at least for some time. It will eventually morph into something smaller that will survive. Indie publishing will continue as well. Tech has given us that. Readers will, given the chance, set the prices they are willing to pay. Unless and until traditional publishing finds a way to get the courts or the legislature to set a minimum price, indie publishing will continue to undercut them there and that will help expand the indie market. (And don’t think traditional publishing and its supporters aren’t already trying to undermine the indie market. Authors United is trying to convince the Justice Department to investigate Amazon. Funny, I don’t remember anyone having any problems with Amazon until they opened up to indie publishing and it started taking off. Hmmm. Could there be a correlation?)

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. What are your thoughts on the issue?

56 thoughts on “Turning a blind eye

  1. Amazon went online in mid’94. At that time the web was a much smaller place, but the mud-brick stores have had a hate-on for Amazon since the later ’90s at the very least.

  2. I think price points on indie ebooks are the single largest driving force here. People will take a chance for less than five bucks, and they’ll take a lot more chances for only a couple bucks. Lots of taking chances means lots of finding authors you like. Lots of finding authors you like translates into lots of future sales for those authors. And indie authors are likely to remain at that “take a chance on me!” price point, thus attractive as a good-enough choice, even if they aren’t your best choice.

    I’ve found it’s exactly the same for print books. Back when the average paperback cost a couple bucks, I felt few qualms about buying and trying practically any new author in sight, and I wasn’t all that fussy about how wonderful they were. Now that an average paperback is closing on ten bucks, I almost never try new authors, and hesitate even for my established “buy anything they write” authors. The net effect is that my book-buying habit has taken a severe dive, from hundreds per year to maybe ten per year, if that.

    1. Exactly what the indy-author discussion group I belonged to concluded when Amazon launched the Kindle, and began inviting authors — any author! – to make their books available for it. An affordable price? Hey, take a chance on an unknown. If you love it – good for the author. Hate it — well, you aren’t out much.

    2. Doesn’t even have to be an unknown-unknown. Wen Spencer’s _Three Million Gods_ (or something like that) has been looking at me from the shelf of a local bookstore for a while. But it’s $6.99. That’s kinda serious money right now. I’ve read bits of Wen’s work, but I’m not certain I am going to splash out $8 (tax) for a paperback. *shrug* Which is sad to say, because I want to support other writers, but . . .

      1. If you like anime, when you get around to reading it, you’ll find it absolutely full of giggleworthy and “Oh! I see what you did there!” moments.

        I _know_ I was missing references, because I haven’t watched much anime or read much manga in the last decade. Sort of : “Oooh, I know you’re riffing on one of the magical girl shows there, but I don’t know which one!”

    3. When a trashy paperback costs as much as a monthly subscription to Netflix, it’s kind of a hard sell.

      Most of us have entertainment budgets, and we realize perfectly well that life is a trade off.
      Of course, Amazon is smart enough to team up with Coinstar, and let us credit the spare change we have laying around directly to our account, without having to touch the budget.

  3. I’m no longer purchasing dead tree books.

    However, when I was Amazon was the “better” deal.

    I still remember the “fun” of hitting several brick-and-mortar stores trying to find a new paperback release (this was in a market of several brick-and-mortar stores).

    Yes, I could “go into a brick-and-mortar store” and order a book if they didn’t have it in stock but I’d have to return to that store when it came in.

    So on-line shopping for books showed itself to be much better time wise.

    Amazon was (to the best of my knowledge) the first on-line bookstore. B&N got into it later and Borders did it via Amazon at first.

    Amazon usually charged lower prices for a hardcover than the brick-and-mortar store” (as B&N on-line sometimes did).

    Of course, buying on-line meant that the books would be delivered to my door.

    Minor plus for Amazon was that I didn’t pay sales tax while B&N on-line (because of the local stores) charged sales tax.

    1. Most of the print books I buy nowadays (retail not used) are small or specialty or fine-press. Subterranean gets a fair amount of business from me.

  4. It’s the free market (such as it is) at work. Businesses are setting a price and consumers are letting their wallets do the talking. It will eventually get sorted out

  5. I know what Rezaic is saying, and I have to agree. I wanted to get my paperbacks under $10, but indie on demand publishing just wont let me do it for a 100K novel. I see about 10:1 sales of ebooks to paperback, and I don’t do ANY reformatting or cover changes… Whatever else you want to say, Amazon has given us a world of new authors to try, and I’m staying under the $5 price point to hopefully entice more buyers to try my books. I’m also to the point that I can’t/won’t spend $15+ on an ebook. I’ll go to a used bookstore a year later and buy a paperback/hardback for 75% off.

    1. only it’s not that deeply discounted anymore NFO. The used bookstores are taking in so many books…they’re having to give people less money for what they dump and charge more for what they put on the shelves to stay in business.. I shop at a chain called Half Price. and between 50-60% of the cover is what I pay…it’s gotten bad enough for them that they carry a selection of current bestsellers now at full price

  6. Category error. Wanting a story is not the same as wanting a story by a particular author.
    Authors are in competition with all other books on the market, as well as every other form of entertainment on the market.
    “Protecting” print sales by artificially inflating ebook prices simply drives consumers to options.

  7. (First time commenting here)

    Looking over this and some of the other reports out there I see a day perhaps within ten years when Baen, the independent publishers, and self-publishers own more then 70% of the ebook market. Simply because they are small and nimble enough to read the market and understand what people want, AND are also small enough to understand you can price yourself out of the market if you are not careful.

    Like others have said I’d much rather buy the monthly bundle from Baen and try other ebooks from independent publishers and self-publishers then overpay for a book I’m probably not going to enjoy anyway.

  8. I am doing an experiment next week. I’ll be attending a large, long-running science fiction convention and have a table in the dealer’s room. I am going to be selling books by self-published/small press authors. Trade paperbacks, mostly con-priced at $10 or $15. We’ve got 40-something titles and will be representing about 20 authors.

    For each title I have made up bookmark sized cards with the book information and a QR code that links to the Kindle sales page for that book. (And information for looking the title up manually for people without QR readers, naturally.) The e-books are mostly priced in the $2.99 to $5.99 range.

    I’ve asked the contributing authors to track their Kindle sales over the weekend and let me know if they experience any significant sales from the convention.

    I am hoping that allowing readers to browse the physical copies of the books and then also offering the alternative of buying the e-book right there will result in large numbers of e-book sales.

    I suspect that many book readers find books that they want by browsing the physical copies and then looking for the Kindle version By offering a link to the Kindle version at the point of sale I hope to increase those numbers.

    In any event, I will be interested in seeing how the hardcopy sales and e-book sales compare when they are offered side by side at a physical location, as they are on the Amazon website.

    1. The music business went through a tail/dog conversion a while back. Forty years ago album sales were the big money maker and concert tours were used as a promotional tool to sell albums. Today it’s the concerts that are the main profit center and albums are designed to get fans into the shows.

      I think that’s happening now with e-book/physical books. I have always seen my CreateSpace copies more as a promotional tool–I have probably given away more than I have sold.

      Traditional publishers are resisting that conversion, much to their detriment. I have seen people respond to the news that traditional publishers are selling fewer e-books when they raise the prices as “proof” that the e-book fad is finally over.

    2. Suggestion: Don’t just track the numbers over the weekend. People like myself would wait until I got home to a real computer (non i-cantreadit smartphone) to sit down and order.

      Oh, and another suggestion to all authors who might be reading this: Make coverlets to autograph for your fans who buy the ebooks. You can advertise with them and give the fans a treat. Heck, make them show you the book on their ereader before you sign it… 🙂 I actually made my own and took them to LibertyCon last year for all the ebooks I own. I now have signature cards for ebooks I own from Weber, Drake, Ringo, McCaffrey, etc.

      1. Oh, I like the coverlets. A bit late to put them together for this con, but I could do some for upcoming events. I am listed on Authorgraph, which allows people to autograph e-books, but no one ever asks for my autograph on that.

        And I do intend to track e-book sales for a while, a lot of people are (I hope) going to take the info home and buy later.

    3. correct Mischa. outside of “I’ll buy it just because they write it” authors in the Baen stable…I pretty much don’t buy dead tree anymore. For my regular Baen authors[none of whom have anything coming out between now and my birthday half way through the following year goddammit! least not on the release schedule] I buy the dead tree AND ebook.

  9. I’m another convert to the Baen bundles, and am quite pleased with their customer-friendly approach (ebooks in a wide variety of formats, first-time customers get the free library boks loaded into their accounts, etc).

    For trad pubs, I’m generally not interested in their products (regardless of price) except when they’re reprinting boks by favorite authors. So, I laid down $10 for CJ Cherryh’s Morgaine collection, and am purchasing each installment of Tanith Lee’s Birthgrave trilogy (really wish they’d released that as a compilation).

  10. Pricing ebooks to protect print sales only works when you control the production of ebooks. Don’t know what they’re drinking, but I don’t want any. They’re guarding the gate and pretending the fence hasn’t fallen down.

  11. I wish I had the money to start my own publishing company. I really believe that now would be the perfect time to get into the scene, because as things change the old publishers will fall opening up things for new entrepreneurs to take there place. I think I have a business model that would work great for both customers and authors. It would be no were near as profitable as the old publishing model, but if you can keep the authors and customers real happy you can make up for it with great volume of sales.

  12. I’m wondering if there is any relationship between TNH and Bookscan. I haven’t even checked to see if they spell the name the same.

  13. I was in B&N yesterday. They’re running a special promo this weekend: instead of members getting 10% off cover price, they’re offering 20% off.

    Personally, that just screams “we’re desperate!” The fact that the cashier practically begged me to sign up for a membership with said 3-day-long promo as the center of her sales pitch didn’t help.

  14. Remember, Scalzi is mostly about what is good for Scalzi. He’s hooked his horse to Trad Publishing so he feels he needs to push Trad Publishing. If he ever decides to go Indy he’ll sound like you, Cedar, and Sarah.

  15. $216 a year or $58 each quarter buys you Baen’s entire e-book output. Granted, three of those each month are reprints, but still you get 48 new release works a year for $4.50 each. And they’re Baen so you can reasonably know what to expect, ie entertaining, action oriented science fiction. I generally pay ahead by quarters as I’m in a position where $58 isn’t a big deal. Been doing so for several years now. Most of the rest of my reading comes from Amazon based on word of mouth here, at ATH, or from friends.
    But then there is that invisible elephant in the room, alternative sourcing, ie the bootleg market. I keep an eye on that, and new release novels generally pop up from a day to a week after they hit the stores. Like I said, most of my e-books come from Baen or Amazon. Any others I might obtain that get read, I try to locate the author’s web presence and donate 20% of the hardback price. It’s the main reason I maintain a paypal account.
    Not advocating anything shady, but people being people when the big pubs price themselves out of the market folks will find work arounds whether they be libraries, used book stores, or other more creative solutions.

    1. I wish I was in a position to buy the Baen sets. Until hitting on Larry’s site and these I was starved for reading material (and the Baen free library). Soon, soon… if we don’t have to figure out how to make another car payment.

  16. On the chain stores, I saw this today: ‘Recently I decided I missed being a bookseller and applied for a part time job at the local B&N. The manager who interviewed me wanted to make sure I understood the selling culture at the store. He said, “I don’t even bother asking people what books they are reading anymore. If people love books they can work at the library, I want people who love selling books.”‘

    That’s exactly the attitude that doomed Borders. Books are not widgets, and booksellers who treat sales of books like any other commodity make for an unpleasant experience.

    I miss bookstores. I don’t miss sales forces.

    1. I’d go a step further than that: any seller of hobby material who takes that attitude is dooming themselves. Because part of maintaining the market for hobby materials is growing the number of people who want to take up said hobby. Having people who are enthusiastic about said hobby helps this tremendously.

  17. I don’t read as much for pleasure anymore. Reading is mostly for career or life in these times.

    I also don’t buy physical fiction anymore. I still occasional buy a hardback technical book on sale, if it also has a free ebook. Or I’ll pick up a cheap book at the used bookstore if I can’t find it online. The library is a fine option too. (Shelf space is at a premium at the house.)

    When I do buy now days, I really like ebooks formats. I can read them anywhere due to having a smart phone.

  18. My thoughts? Evil as usual (I have a reputation to protect. It’s like a trademark, don’t defend it and you lose it) Anyway: my thought is this: I hope La Scalzi believes himself 110% right and continues to act on it, preach it to his faithful and especially to his fellow Tor authors. The longer they go on down this course, the better for the rest of us. It’s a big pie, and they are not the elite they think they are, but I’m not above a little schadenfreude. It’s a course they can choose to abandon and succeed or fail on merit, but if not, it is not going to cause me tears. I suspect it’s a real fear of failure that keeps tradpub authors so tight-clinging.

    However, I do expect La Scalzi to suddenly announce that he has always been at war with Eastasia, and tradpub and Tor are just untrammeled evil if the tide runs hard enough.

  19. Tradpub has a lot of other problems, which I’ve written about here and there. One very real issue that few people talk about is the ability to sell very slightly used (i.e., read once or only partially) books on Amazon and eBay. I know people who buy a hardcover, read it, and then sell it on Amazon Marketplace or eBay for half of cover. They get the book for half-off if they’re patient about getting the money, and the people who buy it get it for half-off if they’re patient about getting the book.

    Then there’s the remainder issue. Few hardcovers sell through their initial print runs, and when the publishers analyze monthly or quarterly figures on their frontlist, a handful of books are marked for death…er, remaindering. It costs in various ways to keep inventory. There are complicated tax issues as well as the simple cost of storing and shipping them. Books that don’t perform well enough, generally within their first year, are written off. The books are marked with a black marker on one of their edges in the warehouse, and then they’re sold to remainder houses or online penny sellers. Books you see in tent sales are generally remainders, as are the books you can get on ABEbooks or similar places for a dollar (sometimes less) plus shipping. Remaindering teaches savvy readers that never-opened hardcovers can be had for almost nothing if you’re patient and willing to search a little online.

    Most of tradpub these days is in Manhattan, which is a problem all by itself, considering that you have to pay a fortune for a cramped office and 50%-75% more to staff than you would in, say, Omaha.

    None of these issues apply to indie publishing. None. I owned print publishing companies for 20 years. No more.

    1. Exactly — I have gotten so many hardcover copies of books that I wanted or needed for research — for pennies plus shipping.
      I have actually seen pro-second-hand sellers at work, at various library sales here in Texas. They come with portable scanners and plastic crates bungee-corded to folding dollies. They are quite ruthless … but I think the market may have gone off lately, as I haven’t seen quite so many of them lately.

  20. I don’t buy paper anymore and the rising costs of ebooks have already made me give up on Patricia Briggs, Jack Campbell, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, and many, many others. In point of fact, I’m planning on purchasing the audio version of Jim Butcher’s new book since it works out to be cheaper than the ebook for me (platinum member).
    I love Indie writers and wish that DJ Molles hadn’t drunk the kool-aid. Not only have his books doubled in price, but he’s published by Hatchette.

  21. Here’s something else that occurred to me: Don’t read more into Scalzi’s words and actions than might be there. I’ve wondered in recent years whether he really believes the stuff he’s been saying, or if he’s been saying it for a very specific and cynically calculated reason. Keep in mind that Scalzi started out as an indie, and that there was nothing overwhelmingly political about Old Man’s War. If anything (granting that I haven’t read it for a number of years) it leans right.

    Fast forward to 2015. Scalzi has hitched his wagon to a very specific horse (Tor) in a very specific barn (Manhattan tradpub.) His patrons are very left and very tribal, and if he intends to do well by them, he has to not only respect their tribal narrative but actively defend it. Quite apart from the economic threat indie represents to Manhattan tradpub, indie is inherently beyond control. It operates on a different plane from the culture wars. It’s distributed, centerless, and impossible to suppress. This, and the fact that a great many successful indie authors hold the progressive narrative in utter contempt, must make Manhattan tradpub absolutely nuts. Scalzi has to attack indie. He literally has no choice. His patrons require it, and with his recent Tor deal, they *own* him.

    So I’d say take Scalzi’s comments on AE with a couple of sodium ions and no more. He’s just following orders.

    1. Jeff – “Scalzi has hitched his wagon to a very specific horse (Tor) in a very specific barn (Manhattan tradpub.) His patrons are very left and very tribal, and if he intends to do well by them, he has to not only respect their tribal narrative but actively defend it.”

      This. As neat a summary as I’ve seen.

      Of course if that horse goes lame, or drops dead he’ll change his tune rapidly.

      My question is: will everyone just forget? Always at war with Eastasia suddenly…
      I won’t, but I’m not everyone ;-/

      1. The horse is already lame (which can be taken a couple of ways) and sooner or later, its corporate masters will take it out and shoot it, or sell it to someone who will. I’ve seen a lot of imprints die in the last 30-odd years. It’s like a law of physics. After that, one of the other Manhattan tradpubs will take him in, and the cycle will repeat until he runs out of tradpubs. I’ve bet on the wrong horse more than once in my career. This time he did and I didn’t. Someday I’ll remind him of that article, and rub his nose in it a little.

    2. From the Scalzi piece: “First, if we are talking overall book sales, I do think we’re missing a lot if we’re not bringing indie sales into the discussion. There’s a hell of a lot going on there and it’s one of the most exciting places in publishing right now, “exciting” being used in many senses of the term. But no matter how you slice it, if you’re lightly sliding over its existence, you’re not accurately describing the current publishing market.”

      Not seeing a lot of indie-bashing there, or elswhere. Did you even read it?

      1. Yes. Twice, in fact. The scope of my comment was larger than just that one article, and takes in most of what I’ve read from and about Scalzi for some time. I was speculating that the man has chosen to back one side in the culture wars as a means of getting what he wants, and that as a footsoldier in the culture wars, he has to demonstrate support for his side’s narrative. His side sees indie as a threat, so he can’t be too supportive, even if, inwardly, he sees it as a possible lifeboat if Manhattan tradpub starts taking on too much water.

  22. Happened to catch part of a TV round table the other day that seems relevant. The first part I caught was a kitchen appliances salesman who was talking about the store as a showroom where people come to compare, see demos, get instruction, and things like that. A place to try it out. He was proud of a program they were running where you could get selected appliances for a 2 day home trial. Take that non-fat fryer home and try it out. And everything is also available on their website.

    The second part I saw was a grocer. He is using the web to compare prices, decide where to set sale prices, and to give coupons and recipes. He also showed us how a surprise heavy rain meant few shoppers so he put a special time sale on the website and pulled in a crowd so he didn’t have to trash the vegetables.

    Key thing I took away was that here are brick and mortar stores who are busily figuring out how to take advantage of the internet. Not either or, but both! Much more exciting approach, to my mind.

    Interesting that kitchen appliances and grocery stores can experiment with working with the Internet, while those paladins of progress (the publishers!) don’t seem to be able to.

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