Thursday, February 14, 2008

What a concept (store)!

So Borders has finally unveiled its concept store concept. (And yes, that's a USA Today link - I know, I know.) This article, by Jayne O'Donnell and Sharon Silke Carty, reads like a press release, even though it is in a supposedly objective publication. This allows me to link to it and avoid a link to Borders - which is just fine by me.

So what's the concept? According to the article, the store will now be "a digital center where you can download music or books, burn CDs, research family histories, print pictures and order leather-bound books crammed with family photos — with help from clerks who know how to do those sorts of things and won't embarrass you if you don't." The new Apple store in Boston comes to mind reading this - I imagine it will have a similar feel, sans les livres.
At the Borders concept store, new themed book islands are built around lifestyle genres, including travel, cooking and health. The digital centers, meantime, are geared to welcome people of all levels of tech know-how. Staffers will guide customers through the process of burning music to CDs, downloading songs to most
digital music players (except iPods, which, for now, work only with Apple software) or books to a Sony digital reader. They'll even print the cover art and fold it into a CD cover for you.

This seems like a fine idea to me, actually, though I wonder if such rights management would even be possible for an independent store of any kind. Leave it to a big corporate box store to line up all their eggs to make this possible. But having digital content available with human assistance, as compared to wandering this landscape at home on your computer with some FAQ's at best, seems like a good idea, and could help popularize digitized media even more.

I don't, however, like this whole idea of "stickiness," in which they hope customers linger in the store so they can be exposed to more product. I hate walking through a bookstore and tripping over yoga mats, and silly games, figurines based on cartoon characters, and other non-book garbage they're trying to sell. So now they'll have monitors flashing ads and images - another irritating trend. (Recently, my local grocery store put up giant flat screens by the deli and what look like flatscreen computer monitors in all the cashier lanes so they can flash ads constantly.) So the bookstore experience will not, in fact, be "homey," bigwigs, if you keep filling it with unnecessary junk you're hoping we'll accidentally buy, as a gift the recipient does not want or need.

Guess I'm conflicted. Is anyone excited about these concept stores? The article has a list of 14 locations to come.

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