Two new outlets for books were launched recently for local book-lovers. One, Flying Pig, is a sort of Kiwi Amazon.com (a Wahine Toa? A Xena?) which will go live this month. The other, Borders, is the biggest book store in the country, with 140,000 titles available and a café where Auckland readers can lounge, read and chat until midnight every night. Both are huge repositories of knowledge and information but which one represents the future of book buying? Is our society at a turning point, where people will stay at home in their slippers and order their books online, to be delivered to their wired suburban hideout? Or will we still prefer human contact and the feel of books in our hands as we browse? While there’s room for both, if I had to pick a winner then I’d plump for the good old-fashioned book shop any time. E-business is great — I love ordering online, love how much it saves me, love the thrill of getting a great big parcel to open. And if the books are cheaper at Flying Pig then certainly I’ll buy them — I read too much to be extravagant about the price I pay. But have you been to Borders? If not, go there tonight — even if that means flying up from Invercargill. It’s amazing — floor after floor of books stretch on for ever. The pleasure of pottering around big rooms full of books, reading the dust jackets, picking up things that catch my eye on the way through, is something I won’t give up easily. At the launch of Flying Pig, executive director Stefan Preston gave a demonstration of how the site will look. It looks, to be honest, pretty much like every other book, music and video Web site out there at the moment. Granted, it’s got a jazzy logo of a flying pink pig, charges in New Zealand dollars and members will get discounted prices — but the prices on screen didn’t look that cheap to me. If you’re paying $3 for postage and the books are only $2 to $3 less than in the shops — well, unless I want to buy a lot at once I’ll just toddle off to Borders, thanks. Stefan says he recognises the need to keep prices down to compensate for the delivery times, so maybe the prices will be more impressive when the site finally opens for business. He’s also keen to expand into other products, from gifts to electronics to financial services, so Flying Pig might still transform New Zealand shopping. A physical shop, though, can attract people with in-store events. In America Borders has 256 outlets with a reputation for selling a lot of books, and Pacific Rim director Kate Sprouls says the New Zealand shop will follow the same pattern: a huge range of books and a stress on interacting with the community. The coffee shop, poetry readings, jazz nights and fundraising for local charities will all be used to pull people in through the Queen Street doors. I hope they both do well. Flying Pig will have access to books from all around the world and a quick check through Borders’ fiction section showed it didn’t manage to cover all my favourite Scottish authors, so I’ll have a look on the Web page as soon as it’s up and running. Books equal knowledge and I don’t care how people get access to it, so long as they do. Auckland just got a lot better for readers. Gillian Law is a reporter for Computerworld, phone: 0-9-377 9902. For publication copy letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com
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