Something tells me that humans are sentimental beings or perhaps it is that when there is a disruption we like to hang onto something we think is undisruptable. The problem is we don’t really know what is solid enough to hold onto. Is a vending machine solid enough? The reason I am thinking this right now is thanks to an article I saw on a 100 year old butcher shop adding a vending machine so that they can serve their customers 24/7.
My knee jerk reaction was to think “a vending machine is innovative?” Maybe in 1901 it was. But then I began to think about the number of times I’ve passed my local bookstore in the morning on the way to the train. I stare in the window and think “I would buy that right now,” but I can’t because the store is closed. I may go away and buy that book as an ebook when I get on the train, but what if there was a book vending machine at this store. What if they turned their window display into a vending machine. I would buy it on my way to the train. And if this view—
“What we hear from our customers is a great deal of enthusiasm for price bundling, so you can read the physical book at home when you’re in bed at night and when you’re on the subway you can read the same book on your e-reader,” said Rachel Meier, general manager at Booksmith.
—is right then and I could buy a bundled ebook and paperback—well that would be the cat’s pajamas.
So surely I thought no one has ever tried selling books from a vending machine before, books are just too precious, right? And of course it has been tried and actually is still going on. Apparently Penguin had a vending machine in the 30’s called the Penguincubator and there are vending machines in France, Brazil, Japan, and of course Germany. So maybe this isn’t such a unique idea but the thing about those vending machines is that they aren’t connected to the internet like say a kiosk is, and they don’t seem to be connected to a local bookstore. It seems like maybe most of them are vendor managed or publisher specific. Now this is where the local bookstore good at curation can make this work.
What if you saw something on the scale of this:
only you saw your shop window, pbooks, ebooks and bundles available to your customers who have an account with you that maybe they set up online or while in your store. They have a membership card from your store and it is all connected to your web presence anyway. Think, “what would Apple do?”
Granted it was in a trend watchers newsletter that I read about the butcher shop. Trends by definition are trendy—they come and go. But the trend is the vending machine not buying books. People want to buy books and will in the most convenient way and impulsively if you are there for them. So why not turn the vending machine into an ebook/pbook/kiosk/24/7service bookstore branded machine? I would shop at your store even when you were at home sleeping.
Now someone just has to build one of these things. It can’t be that hard!