A Gold Rush To Judgment
We also offered a demonstration of both our current and new MatchMaker software and in the course of a full day made relatively few full demonstrations. The people who were interested were very interested, but the majority of attendees were not. This suggests that the world of books is indeed deeply divided, if not exactly 50-50, into two camps: those who use the internet and are comfortable with computers, software and passwords and are willing to rely on the printed descriptions available on the net, and those who are not comfortable with the internet and are much more the traditional bookseller and book collector. The latter group takes it slow, doing what they have done in the past, resistant and reluctant to change because they understand the equation as it has been and want it to remain that way. For them, the changes that the internet brings are often a negative, not a positive. These changes undermine the traditional way of doing business thus forcing participants to adjust to these new methodologies or face the prospect of market erosion. And they don’t like it.
A telling statistic of our research with both show participants and those who use our site is the interest of those online to being connected to the traditional world of book collecting, although the very small overlap of audiences at this recent fair suggests there are limits to how far they will travel. Æ members are interested in book dealers’ catalogues. In that respect they share common ground with the more serious book collectors at this show.
A challenge to show promoters will be to find ways to shorten the bridge between these two distinct worlds. The difference may be almost entirely generational, but not the traditional generations we think of. Rather, those who are experiencing the net with its extraordinary breakthroughs are the computer generation and they run in age from 5 to 85. There are 85-year-old computer wizards and there are 45-year-old computer illiterates.
Fortunately, even as computers and their operating systems become more complex they also become more intuitive. Everyone associated with computers and the internet understands that the only barriers to an entirely internet-driven world are cost, speed and ease of use. Every day the costs come down. Every day higher speed connections penetrate more deeply into America’s electronic nervous system. Every day the software becomes easier to use. It is only a matter of time.
Within ten years dealers will display their books online as holographs. Interested parties will be able to observe at least important books as “real” objects. Open them. Read them. Experience them in a way that only a few can today. In the meantime we continue to experience “real” books up close and personally at book fairs and I think almost everyone would say that this is a very good thing.
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