You can’t wrap an EBook; what the toy industry can learn from the book industry

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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.

 

5 thoughts

  1. I wish that were true of my daughter and son-inlaw. They have kindles and the kids have ipods. They like the fact that eBooks are easy to store and cost less. They love to shop online and there is no shipping costs.

  2. I was wondering if Christmas morning would one day be for passing around envelopes only because all gifts consisted of ebooks, itunes & store gift cards, & gift certificates. Apparently many feel that giving a gift that the recipient can touch has a lot of meaning.
    I think children need tangible books, not that they don’t enjoy kindle & the ipod as well.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more! There is something special about unwrapping a tangible book and being able to delve right into it. There is a place for e-books, but we have to remember how important it is to expose our young children to traditional books.

  4. Agreed! I was just thinking about this the other day, can’t wrap an e-book, and it definitely takes the fun out of gift giving merely sending an email or a printout of the purchased electronic item.
    While I’m glad brick and mortar book sales have increased, I think it’s important for the entire industry of e-book sellers to consider this social tradition in digital sales, for both the adult and children’s markets. Sellers could offer a tangible “thing” along with the online purchase that is relatively cheap to ship. For kids it could be a play character from the book. For adults it might be a pop-up gift card themed around the book, or a small trinket. Makes gift giving a lot more fun in the digital age.

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