Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Best Sellers

This post is dedicated to the American TV commentator, Andy Rooney. 
Not the Andy Rooney who tends to cry a lot lately when contemplating his mortality, but the Andy Rooney who made an enormously successful career by doing a weekly 3-minute blather that invariably started out in a whiny voice asking the question, "Have you ever noticed?"

Have you ever noticed that the digital age is making it so easy to buy stuff that we are all shelling out lots of bucks for things we otherwise might have passed on?

That became so evident to me this morning as I looked at my Kindle library and realized that I probably will never find the time to read all the books I have bought in the past year. (I am assuming I will not have severe diarrhea for six or seven weeks in a row. If that happens, then that amount of loo time significantly changes the maths.)

Just yesterday LK downloaded "Methland". She is raving about it, and so I told her I would read it next - right after I finish "Swamplandia". Despite their names, these are not books we are reading hoping to identify some new and interesting travel destinations. How we ended up reading these books, though, does help to illustrate my point.

Swamplandia is a simple story. I subscribe to the New York Times weekly book review e-mail. One of their critics loved the book. I bought it and had it on my Kindle less than 60 seconds after first learning that the book existed.

LK took a somewhat more circuitous route. She was reading something about Charlie Sheen. (Don't judge her. It would be almost impossible to go online and not read about Charlie Sheen this week.) One of the stories LK read mentioned former Hollywood train wreck, Tom Arnold. LK clicked through a link and learned that Tom Arnold's sister is one of the people featured in a 2-year-old nonfiction book about middle America and drugs called Methland. She checked a few reviews. She bought it.

In other words, we now have a pair of books that we almost surely would never have bought if there were no Internet. And even if we had become aware of these two good books, we almost surely would not have ended up owning them were it not for Kindle.

LK would have to be lucky to find a two-year-old American nonfiction book here in Oz. And I would never have gone into a bookstore looking for something new to read. Not with more than 40 (!!!!) books I have bought and not read yet,  which in printed form would have been a floor-to-ceiling display of stuff to be read before buying more stuff to be read.

I have written about how LK and I are trend people - the ones that market researchers would get rich off of if only they knew what we were doing. So I am pretty sure there are lots of people out there buying books they may never get around to reading just because it's so easy to do it now.

Surely there must be some shamefaced publishers out there - you know, the ones who were worried that digital books would ruin their businesses. OK, they're probably getting paid less now than they did before, but they're selling stuff they never would have.  And I suppose it also has dawned on them that it's Borders, not Amazon, that owes them a bazillion dollars they are unlikely to receive.

I can foresee the day when people - especially people on fixed incomes - start getting rid of their Kindles in much the same way some people cut up their credit cards. Because it's just too easy to buy stuff when you have them around. Of course, you won't think of dumping the Kindle at least until you've read all those books you've got piling up in your digital library.

And, of course, it's not just books. Just in case you still have a faint memory of Andy Rooney's voice ringing in your mind, let me ask one more question.

Have you ever noticed how you hear a song at the end of a movie, download an entire album to your iPod and then never listen to it for months because you forgot you had it?

But that's another post.

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