Second Life: It's Not a Game
You can purchase a virtual book in L$ (these are readily converted into real money) for your virtual home, and/or you can purchase a real book to be sent to your real home. In any case, the level of interaction between you and the bookseller, in real time, far exceeds what you would expect from a passive website.
Effortlessly, in one evening, you can teleport (Second Life's way of traveling from one location to another) from one bookstore or book village to the next, through recreations of Swiss villages, or imaginative other-world sci fi establishments. You can hover overhead and look at the whole scene from the air, or change the perspective of the camera, zoom in or out, or look at the virtual world through the eyes of your avatar.
This and more is all available now, or will be available soon in Second Life. It is a world created from the imagination, which blurs the distinction between what you might think of as "real" and what you might perceive as "imaginary". Even if you have a bricks-and-mortar store, or a terrific independent website, you cannot ignore this new business frontier.
To see some of the more creative ways Second Life residents are envisioning the future, check out NPR's "Science Friday" site; NASA's museum of space exploration. The venerable Library of Congress has just opened a Second Life exhibition. Harry Potter is not just a series of books, but has spawned numerous Second Life fantasy environments.
But here's the warning label:
First of all, Second Life is a computer resource hog. For a Windows system, you absolutely have to have a fast internet connection (Cable or DSL), and at least XP in your system. Your computer should be running at least at 1.5 GHz or better, with at least 1 GB of computer memory, and you desperately will need a top graphics card, like the Nvidia or ATI graphics cards. Without adequate resources count on freezing on a regular basis, so do not explore Second Life on a critical business computer, or with files or databases open that you would be upset losing.
Secondly, Second Life is addictive. This is not necessarily a bad thing. How you deal with that, I leave in your capable hands.
Renée Magriel Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.