In a previous post in our blog, you read this quote from Seth Godin, who proclaims that the e-readers have killed the bookstore. His rationale for this is that heavy users have already switched to the electronic format. Here is that quote:
If you want to know if a ship is going to sink, watch what the richest passengers do. iTunes and file sharing killed Tower Records. The key symptom: the best customers switched. Of course people who were buying 200 records a year would switch. They had the most incentive. The alternatives were cheaper and faster mostly for the heavy users. Amazon and the Kindle have killed the bookstore. Why? Because people who buy 100 or 300 books a year are gone forever. The typical American buys just one book a year for pleasure. Those people are meaningless to a bookstore. It’s the heavy users that matter, and now officially, as 2009 ends, they have abandoned the bookstore. It’s over.
One of the heaviest user types for book sales is a school system, which authorizes and purchases thousands of copies of approved textbooks for student use in multiple grades. The evolution of how students access, read, and study these books is already underway. They are now involved with electronic books at a very young age, and this trend will continue.
This is hardly the typical in-store customer for a commercial bookstore. While it is certainly true that many collegiate students purchase their textbooks from internet sources such as Amazon, B&N, and others, these are not lost customers to the bookstore.
Seriously – how many times do you really think a customer in a bookstore asked a clerk, “do you carry Texas History for 7th graders by McGraw Hill?” How many times do you believe that a customer asked, “I need the sixth edition of Introduction to Psychology,” for my PSYC 1301 course? If there have been such requests, the clerk would escort them over to the counter where he or she would look up the book and ask if the customer would like to order it.
Hundreds of thousands of textbooks roll through systems such as these throughout the country. And their use is already evolving into the electronic format. But, these are not the books in a typical bookstore. Nor are they the types of books that customers waltz in to purchase. These bookstores were not built for the purpose of serving customers who purchase textbooks.
In essence, these heavy users are not lost customers to a bookstore. They were never customers in the first place.
Sara says: Cheryl and I teach graduate students and we’ve discovered that many don’t write well. It’s a rampant problem and when we mention it, some students get a real “deer in the headlights” look. They don’t have a clue where to start. Now, this isn’t going to be a rant about today’s youth not being able to write. It’s about a leader’s responsibility to good communications. The quizzical look from our students, whether it means “I don’t know what you are talking about” or “I don’t know what to do about it” is not a sufficient response. A leader’s job – right up there with delivering results to the shareholder’s – is communicating. Leaders must always be on the lookout for 1) the most effective ways to communicate and 2) the number of ways they can deliver the message.
Lou Gerstner who wrote about the turnaround of IBM, wrote in his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, “Personal leadership is about communication, openness, and willingness to speak often and honestly, and with respect for the intelligence of the reader or listener.” I heard Gerstner tell an audience of IBM executives that, “you cannot over communicate. You are responsible to communicate your vision in every memo, every conference call, every interview.” If change in a company fails, look first to the leader and their ability (and tenacity) in articulating the change.
Cheryl offers: Our friend and ally blogger, Bob Morse, posted this question only a few days earlier in June: Q #184: Has the ability to write well become obsolete? Bob’s answer was “No, and I am convinced it never will.” I agree with Bob and Sara. The responsibility to teach, practice, and role model good communications reside with leadership; be it the school system or in corporations. “Have you ever thought about the fact that the great philosopher Socrates had a student named Plato, and that Plato had a student named Aristotle?” This comes from the book, “If Aristotle Ran General Motors” by Tom Morris. Morris goes on to say, “Given the right context of intimate and sustained association, greatness gives rise to greatness.” If that doesn’t inspire a teacher or leader to invest the time to teach their students/employees the value of clear, concise, and grammatically correct communication, I’m not sure it can be done!