Just read a very interesting article about the impact digital books might have on non-bestseller authors – those books you pick up by chance, that look intriguing on the shelf, that happen to be next to something else you’re looking at.
I particularly like the parallel between bookshop browsing and supermarket browsing:
Digital books create a retailing bypass that diminishes the exposure of midlist books to potential readers. Supermarkets have long understood the importance of this aspect of sales, arranging their stores so shoppers have to pass through aisles filled with tempting items in order to pick up a quart of milk. So while eBooks will offer publishers an easier and more economic means to sell more works by leading authors it will increase the challenge of marketing books by others.
I wonder, what will the digital equivalent be of picking up a loaf of fancy bread that smells like and some unusual fruit you’ve never heard of, just because they’re on the way to the cheese? Having done some online supermarket shopping, they do suggest other things you might like, but that doesn’t give the same illusion of having just “happened” upon something (NB: I do realise this is an illusion – supermarket layout being a fiendishly machiavellian science by all accounts).
Can anyone think of a good way to introduce some exciting, sensual chance into the process of online bookshopping? Not just that “you may like” nonsense. Something about the interface that they could change to allow you to see more covers/blurbs, perhaps? I’ve yet to find any online shopping experience that truly mirrors browsing, though.