Finding the point

<p>For most people on the retailing side of the book industry, e-books pose the greatest technological threat of the near future. In fact, by now most are fed up of being told how much they are going to suffer and how much they need to change.</p>
<p>Many believe that their salvation is their knowledge and expertise; nothing beats a retailer who goes beyond the blurb to give you an insight into what a book is really about. It is what makes the independents so special and gives them edge over the price-cutting multiples.</p>
<p>Er . . . until now . . .</p>
<p>Next month Nokia will start pushing &ldquo;point and find&rdquo; technology. You may have heard of how it works on movie posters: when you point your mobile at the poster the point and find technology connects you to a website on your phone that can tell you where the movie is screening near you, which cinemas are offering cheapest prices and the opportunity to book tickets.</p>
<p>Already, publishers are talking to Nokia about how to make this work for books. So from May I could walk into a shop, point my Nokia at a book and get connected to a selection of reviews, a promotional video, an author interview, a gift recommendation or even a special promotional offer.</p>
<p>In other words, more information and insight than most retailers could ever hope to have at their fingertips.</p>
<p>Don't console yourself with the hope that this technology will take a while to gain traction with the mass market&mdash;point and find is already embedded into many Nokia phones and it is surprisingly cheap (and quick) for publishers to adapt their covers to work with it.</p>
<p>There are two ways of looking at the ramifications of this technology for book retailing:<br />
* Good for multiples but bad for specialists: staff expertise will no longer be a discernible advantage for indies and small chains. Even in Tesco I will be able to use point and find to learn everything I need to about a book.<br />
* Good for offline retailers but bad for online: one of the key advantages of buying books online is the sheer amount of information I can get about a book before making a purchase. Now, all of that (and more) will be readily available to me in my local bookshop.</p>
<p>So at a time when everyone is obsessing about the iPad, it would be worth retailers thinking about how they can make point and find work to their advantage because, in all likelihood, it will take off faster than any other digital technology on the horizon.<br />
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