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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#89 Online Shopping

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series ...

Ten years ago, I decided to shop online for all my Christmas gifts. I logged into my AOL account and as I browsed various websites, I knew I was close to the cutoff deadline, but as long as I ordered in the next couple of days, my packages would arrive before Christmas.

I placed my order from one website and waited. Two days before Christmas only a few packages had a arrived and I started to panic. I called the company and a representative told me they had been overwhelmed and were behind, but my gifts should arrive at their various destinations the day after Christmas.

That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I think the company sent me a voucher for future purchases, but that didn’t do me much good at the time. In the big scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Nobody freaked out because their gift showed up a day late. But the experience made me gun-shy about online shopping for a while.

I tend to jump into trends early if I think it will make things simpler. Of course, the problem with jumping into trends early is that they often contain kinks that haven’t been worked out and thus, it doesn’t make things simpler at all.

Ten years later, online shopping is much more dependable and I find myself gravitating toward it more and more. But there’s a new twist  –the ebook. I love downloading a book from anywhere and then having the ability to read it a minute later on my Kindle if I want to.

But I find myself in a quandary. On one hand, I have no desire whatsoever to go to the mall to buy a gift if I can buy it online. On the other hand, I never want the ability to download ebooks from the comfort of my living room to replace the bookstore experience.

According to an article I read recently, “Amazon reported sales of digital books were much stronger this quarter than old-fashioned books, with 143 ebooks selling for every 100 hardcovers.”

From what I’ve read, Barnes & Noble gives NOOK owners incentive to visit their brick and mortar store by offering them in-store discounts, e-coupons, etc. This is a great idea – one I’d love to see catch on at other bookstores.

But it can be sort of complicated – maybe too complicated.

The Kindle has a proprietary aspect so it is exclusive to Amazon.com and best I can tell, they don’t have any established relationship with brick and mortar stores. Barnes & Noble has its aforementioned Nook. Borders has the Kobo.

So what happens when a Kobo owner meets a Nook owner for coffee on a Saturday evening at Barnes & Noble and wants to give Barnes & Noble some money to download the in-store ebook special but he can’t do it because he doesn’t have the correct e-reader?

I understand the proprietary aspect and I love the fact that Amazon.com warehouses all of my downloads so that if my Kindle is lost or stolen then every ebook I’ve ever purchased from them will be easily replaced, but at the same time, I want the freedom to purchase ebooks from anywhere.

But I guess that’s like asking Microsoft and Apple to play nice. Come to think of it, I don’t own any Mac computers, but I do have an iPod and Mac, rather smartly, has figured out a way to make iTunes available to PC users.

For the good of the book publishing industry, I hope the powers that be can sort out all of the compatibility issues.

The funny thing is, here I am ten years down the road from my first experience with online shopping and the process is still going through a transition. I still love the convenience enough to deal with the transition. And besides, there is very little in life that isn’t experiencing transition.


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