Dance and Yodel. Why Books Aren’t In Trouble. But The People Who Sell Them Are.

I went to Barnes and Noble this morning. I was one of 35 people standing outside waiting for them to open.

Where else in Manhattan, I wonder, did a retailer draw a crowd today without a free giveaway involved?

No one went to the cafe. No one went to music and video. Two people headed to the magazine sections. And the rest of us went looking for books.

45 minutes later, I walked out with four. Thanks to no-one and nothing. Except my perseverance and determination.

In the business section, an employee stood at his counter drumming his fingers on the counter-top. Loudly. I think it was loudly. It was hard to hear above the noise of the phone ringing beside him.

I turned to the computer help centers. Helpful. Provided you know the precise spelling of author. Or book. Luckily my iPhone Google search interpreted my attempt, and corrected me. No inter-device cut and paste, however. Dutifully I tried again. The book was in stock, one aisle over.

Except it wasn’t. I tried to decode the cataloguing system. An explanation somewhere would have been helpful. Even if I can’t re-sort by clicking a column header, understanding how you’re trying to do it would save me the trouble of figuring it out for myself. Alphabetical by title? Ah, by author. Except here and here and here. And in any event, my title and author exist in neither.

Another staff member walked by. I looked up plaintively. Without breaking stride she asked me if I needed any help. “I’m looking for the Art of Seduction,” I said, more loudly than I cared to. Based on her response, I’m fairly sure she hasn’t read it. Though I sensed she knew where it was. Her gesture had a number of interpretations, one of which was to duck. But as she disappeared round the corner I gave one last hopeful glance in the general vicinity of her final indication. There, a single copy, lay forlornly and ironically by itself. Clearly, sympathetic presentation of the merchandise hadn’t been on that morning’s staff meeting agenda either.

If you’re going to sell something, sell it. Use technology intelligently, find people who care, train them properly and worry about the details.

Demand is out there for all kinds of things. But if it matters more to your customer than it does to you, their standards will eventually decide if you’re in business.

Google just announced the launch of their online book store.

How much is a Kindle?