Simonetta Fiori is a journalist who follows with great competence the editorial-market sector for the newspaper Repubblica. In the last few days, during which the offer of a merging contract on behalf of Mondadori to the book sector of RCS has dominated discussions, she has written an interesting article which has a strong title: Più piccole e con l’anima – la rivincita delle librerie (Smaller and soulful – the redress of bookshops). Besides its title, the piece is striking because it reproposes the model of independent bookshops, considered by certain profets of the editorial world to be decisively finished, for the revamping of Mondadori’s chain-bookstores.
As we have been saying for quite a while on this blog now, it is vital that every user can understand and use this product instantaneously.
90% of the value for the user is in the interface, and by interface we mean ‘the way you accomplish tasks with a product – what you do and how it responds’ (cf. Jeff Raskin, The Humane Interface).
Vendere l’anima (“Selling The Soul” ) BY Romano Montroni (Laterza, 2006) discusses innovation, the flexibility and speed of change, and how to devote complete attention to the requirements of readers and clients on the one hand, and to the emotional side of a bookshop experience on the other. The book mostly preoccupies itself with the work of a bookseller, written by someone who has lived its present-day history. Umberto Eco has said, quite rightly:
To have Romano Montroni discuss a bookseller’s job, is a bit like reading Dante explaining how two write a poem in three canticas, or having Cellini talk about the business of being a goldsmith, or – in more modest terms – listening to Landru describe how to kill one’s wife.
Today we will present in detail our app, developed in IBS di Padova’s IBS bookstore, Padova’s IBS bookstore, for TwoReads bookshops. As has been mentioned already in a previous post, we have worked for the most part on simplifying the app and making it quick and easy to use, so as not to have an awkward infopoint, but a tool which is perfectly integrated in the environment and experience of the bookshop.
We have received positive results from our tests, which we have made with seven tablets, placed around a floor of the bookstore:
- 42% is the ratio between the amount of people who have entered the bookhsop and the amount of searches carried out on the tablets.
- 7% of what was sold had been previously searched for on the app.
- 20% of total orders (books which were not present in the library) were first searched for on the app.
The development of our app in Padova’s IBS bookstore is as stimulating a process as it is demanding. One of the principal issues which we are trying to solve is how to favour independent book browsing in the bookshop.
First of all, it is worthwhile to draw a comparison between bookshop and library. Different requirements and ends translate into to very distinct approaches. A library classifies its books in “rigid” categories, therefore giving them a “fixed” location. Compared to bookshops, libraries tipically have a larger amount and a wider variety of books, which have been accumulated over the course of decades and centuries. Most of all, libraries stock these books for a longer period of time and therefore that these be “returned” is hugely important to them. However, on the short term, libraries obtain a smaller number of books and can afford to spare more time for each item (naturally, we imagine that the available space and resources are comparable). Lastly, libraries do not feel any pressure to display a book in the most “appealing” position for their customers.
Over the past several days we have been in Padova’s IBS bookshop (63 Via Alinate) developing our new app. It’s proving to be a beautiful experience for us as we’re finally working with accurate book data. Most of all we are having close interaction with our designated users, in every phase of the development.
In this post we will present our app, which is aimed at customers who have already entered the bookshop, beginning from a discussion about what pushed us to create it in the first place. Here is therefore a first, basic and obvious consideration: if I have entered a bookshop I have already made a big decision and at that moment I’m more interested in books than in shoes. The first incentive to read must be that of an environment which is favourable for research, discovery and purchase of books (a similar argument may be made, regarding non-commercial activity, for libraries and there are many any worthy projects in the area which follow this very direction).
As had already happened to us during our stay at the Frankfurt Book Fair, at the Scandinavian Executive Publishing Meeting in Copenhagen we also somehow managed to find ourselves in a hotel in the red-light district. “Oh yeah sure… a coincidence…” say our friends to whom we tell of the two trips… But this time, the hotel was excellent and the area was rather lush, almost no longer a red-light district. I say almost because this was the view from my window:
Dear blog readers and friends of our startup project, the silence of these last few months is due to a radical reorganisation of TwoReads.
On the 28th of August we had a meeting with Roberto Lombardi, our business angel. He made us come to terms with the fact that although the relationship with editors is productive, it is too slow. Furthermore, the market for essay writing, on which we were concentrated, is too small, at least in Italy at this stage. We have therefore decided to spin right round and have restarted from readers themselves and from reading as we enter the bookshop. TwoReads is designed to help readers find their desired book with ease, even without much information, at the same time suggesting other interesting books, in support – and certainly not instead of – the bookseller.
To work on a startup project means to spend long hours in front of a computer.
TwoReads does not (yet) have an office: we all come from different cities, although we converge on Milan. This necessarily means that we work online, i.e. that we collaborate online: we need a number of tools in order to manage, together and online, all the different stages of the work.
Making decisions, for example, is the most complex aspect of such a collaboration and we try to do this away from the computer: at least once a week we meet to make point of the situation. “Face to face” communication is, in fact, unparalleled for this: by making point of the situation, we analyse what has happened (in our successes and failures), making short- and long-term plans and dealing with any problem that may arise.
For the rest, necessarily, we must revert back to the use of tools. This is our setup at the moment.
The Design of Everyday Things
Basic Books; Revised Edition, 2013
Roberto Picerno, an interaction designer in IDEO, suggested this book to me after I had asked him for a bibliography to start reading about interaction design.
From the very first pages my mind was opened up, and I began to understand the importance of an “anthropocentric” approach to the project (i.e., to be certain that products reflect the real needs of the user and that they be intuitive and easy to use).