There was an interesting piece in today’s New York Times entitled: “E-Books, Shmee-Books: Readers Return to the Stores.” It appears that hard cover book sales at the traditional bricks and mortar retailers are up this shopping season. Here is how the article puts it:
Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, said that comparable store sales this Thanksgiving weekend increased 10.9 percent from that period last year. The American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independents, said last week that members saw a sales jump of 16 percent in the week including Thanksgiving, compared with the same period a year ago.
The article offers up a few reasons for the resurgence: Former Borders shoppers are finding new places to buy their books; there are a number of great non-fiction titles available and higher priced books are selling this year.
I think those are certainly strong reasons for the increase. I think the reason the author, Julie Bosman, missed, however, was that you can’t wrap a book that you download. It's no fun buying your brother-in-law the electronic version of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. After all, how do you hand him that on Christmas morning?
I think we all need to remember that gift giving and receiving is a highly kinesthetic event that begins with the giver choosing and wrapping a present and the recipient first excitedly puzzling about what it might be; commenting on the beauty of the packing and then tearing it off to reveal what lies within.
For the traditional toy industry, I think the message is that there is power in the physical, particularly when it comes to gifting. We know that a high percentage of toy sales end up as gifts, so let’s keep making those products that are fun to wrap and unwrap. After all, a virtual Christmas can’t touch a real one.