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20 August 2011

What Makes Books on First a Great Place to Visit

We are an equal opportunity great good place.  We could have a physician, a millwright, a retired schoolteacher, an unemployed housepainter and a beer salesperson all standing  and conversing together, two or more of them with little ceramic espresso cups, one with a strong black tea and milk, and cups of brewed coffee for the rest.  One of the reasons is that we generally follow 50 Things That Customers (Subliminally) Wish You Knew.

On the other hand, we have people who avoid coming into our store and staying awhile.  They opt for a more comfortable (for them) place, because the BoF crowd is too noisy, too quiet, too masculine, too feminine, too old or too young at any given time.  It's a balancing act.  And of course, the character of the bricks-and-mortar store changes with the weather, the time of the year, and even the health of the persons working at the moment.  And, if it's Saturday and only Carolyn is minding the place, they grab their mocha lattes or Black Current iced teas and beat a quick retreat to go visit our traveling store at the Ogle County Fairgrounds or Nachusa Grasslands.

This cannot be said of the website.  Its character changes, but of a different nature.  The content may change.  More information may be added.  An editor may even decide to move blocks from one side of the screen to the other, or add another page.  The basic appearance and "feel" of the site remain the same.  Supposedly web-savvy persons like customer service personnel at IndieBound and our own user-experience guy John Chin urge that we pick a theme and a sitemap and don't stray from it as that change would "confuse" the visitor.  So in a way, the web store is more static than the bricks-n-mortar, counter-intuitive but true.  Most people like stability, continuity and predictability.  Change is usually desired, but not generally anticipated or initially welcomed when it comes.  When change occurs, it's often a big deal and sometimes, not a pleasant one.  Change can be abrupt and transformative.  Change can be subtly evolutionary and so gradually pervade the psyche to be even more unpleasant when finally acknowledged.  Such are the times in which we live, both gradual and transformative change has led us to the decision of totally re-creating www.booksonfirst.com.

The original website is more of a bulletin board or online newsletter.  We'd like to think of the new website platform as another location and another employee all wrapped up in one.  We are working hard to make it work for those who interact better online than face-to-face or through the telephone.  It is certainly not the same as being in the store or even visiting the wall on facebook where one can solicit a lot of opinions and recommendations in a public forum, but it will be less static.  With shopping capabilities on the website, our customers will be able to search for titles at 11:30pm or 2am.  If an e-book is what's wanting, he can buy it online and store it on Google's cloud or download it onto his laptop for reading on the jet plane.  If she wants to pick up a printed bound or audio book and pay for it at the Dixon location, she can do that, too (what we have always called, "reserving it in" or "putting it on hold").  We are hoping that while visiting the website is not the same as visiting the bricks-n-mortar location, it along with Brenda, Antoinette, Kevin, Larry and Carolyn is what continues to makes Book on First a Great Place to Visit.  Come join us.

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