Tag Archives: BT Group PLC

Bookselling And The Internet

Spent an interesting couple of hours with an online bookseller yesterday researching an upcoming column about selling over the Internet. Ian Bruce works out of a disused British Telecom phone exchange, a long narrow building with only one window nestled between the sandstone houses favoured by Britain’s new ruralized yuppies in the quaint English countryside.

I learned a lot about how the Internet has changed the booktrade of which I was once a small part. In particular, how Amazon is, with its Marketplace, doing the same to the second-hand trade as it did to new books. Now booksellers sell popular books for 1 pence (a couple of U.S. cents) and make their profit on the Amazon allowance for postage, which is about $5 in the UK. This of course squeezes the smaller booksellers out of the game, since they can’t exist on that kind of margin. “The thought of trying to make a livable wage on less than one pound is ludicrous,” Ian tells me.

The market, he says, is quickly maturing, pushing more and more small sellers out of business: “The market in the U.S. has developed to maturity and people are pricing to the absolute margin,” he says. “This will eventually happen in the UK too and for that reason it’s absolutely absurd to stock any popular book.” The result: Booksellers like him are furiously weeding out any book they might recognise and holding on only to those books that have some sort of rarity value. “My rule of thumb is, if I haven’t heard of the title or author, then I might be interested.”

This is a grim view of the bookselling world, although it hasn’t quite imploded. My local bookshop, Kingsthorpe Bookshop, is still going, but the proprietor is threatening retirement soon. Hay on Wye, a mecca for bookworms, still hosts dozens of small bookshops which all seemed to be surviving when I visited them a few weeks back. But while books are an odd commodity — what other business requires you to stock a selection of thousands of single units only, year in year out? — the Internet is removing the last few kinks from the market, and it will only be a matter of time before copies of every book ever published can be hunted down at the click of a mouse.

The likely result is that folk like Ian won’t have much business. Sitting on stock won’t be worthwhile, but neither will the skill of matching customer requests with books be much of a skill either. The trick may end up finding those books that are commanding high prices in the short interval before everyone else digs up more copies and pulls the price down. “You look for the unpopular books,” says Ian, “that there will be someone — some man in Brazil, perhaps — may be looking for.”

BT Brings Broadband To ‘Remote’ Milton Keynes

I couldn’t help passing this one on, though I don’t mean to mock either Milton Keynes, a charming artificial town in England, or Online Journalism, a very worthy project of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review.

Online Journalism today picks up a piece from the BBC about how British Telecom is trying to extend broadband connections across the country. (I’ve written about this before after visiting a village in Northamptonshire, which got around the problem of BT’s glacial broadband program by building their own Wifi network.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the BBC article talked about extending ADSL reach from its present range from a broadband-enabled exchange from 6 km to 10. Testing site: Milton Keynes, a town that could not be more in the middle of England since that was why it was built there a few decades back. It’s a garden city, and its sprawling layout and majestic avenues make it the butt of jokes, and more importantly, broadband a hotbutton issue. not But remote it’s not: An hour from London, an hour from Birmingham, an hour from more or less everywhere.

Unfortunately Online Journalism got the wrong end of the stick and wrote about “Remote towns in U.K. to get broadband service: Soon, remote areas in the U.K. will have broadband Internet access, reports the BBC News. BT, the leading ISP in the U.K., is currently running a test in the remote town of Milton Keynes in hopes of establishing broadband service for the area. The town was chosen because 18% of residents experience great frustration over Internet access, a higher percentage than in most U.K. towns due to the city’s remote location.”

I don’t know whether Milton Keynesians are going to be happy about this. The Shetlands are remote. The Scilly Isles, maybe. Milton Keynes? No.

News: Don’t Smile At Me, SMS My Teddy

 From the That’s Interesting, I Think, But Why Exactly Do We Need It Dept comes news that the boffins at British Telecom — BT Exact, to be exact — are working on interactive toys that are linked to mobile phones so that SMS communication can be displayed through the toys’ actions. “This enables the texting experience to become more personable and fun”, reports The Register, who could well be making this up.
So it would work like this: Send a message to the toy — a smiley 🙂 or whatever — and the toy would convey the emotion. For example, if a happy symbol was sent to a toy dog it would come to life and start barking. Alternatively a love message could be sent to a teddy bear, which would trigger its heart to glow and become warm to the touch. Lovely. The researchers, apparently, reckon this would “create a more natural and tangible mode of communicating for adults and children, which will encourage more imaginative text messaging”. Er, OK. Your medication’s ready, Sir.