Why The Secret of Successful Bookselling Is To Let People Copy Your Ideas And Put Them On Wikipedia
So here’s what happened.
First I read an article on a well-known website on a topic that interested me (marketing and how irrationality is at the heart of all human endeavor). Then I set out to write a post on this general topic, because the first premise discussed was about how sometimes premium consumer options are presented by companies simply to promote a more middle-range price option of a similar product. An intriguing example of this was given:
When Williams-Sonoma introduced bread machines, sales were slow. When they added a “deluxe” version that was 50% more expensive, they started flying off the shelves; the first bread machine now appeared to be a bargain.
When contemplating the purchase of a $25 pen, the majority of subjects would drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7. When contemplating the purchase of a $455 suit, the majority of subjects would not drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7. The amount saved and time involved are the same, but people make very different choices. Watch out for relative thinking; it comes naturally to all of us.
And I was going to talk about how we just went and bought a new camera the other day, and we went with the Canon version we had originally thought about buying, but not until deciding that it was superior (and cheaper) to a Leica with similar options. And the Leica product representative dude (complete with German accent) was actually there, in the store, telling you about the Leica, when we made these comparisons. So I started wondering if maybe (Canon and Leica, and maybe Samy’s Camera, too) were all in this together or something . . .
But then I started following up on all of the links in that original article, to see more of the conversation. And then when I did that, it was like I was on a scavenger hunt, because each post led to another post, and all of the posts shared the same starting point. Which would not be remarkable except for that the starting point, in this case, was a two-year-old semi obscure book on marketing called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Which was odd in itself, because why all of a sudden is everyone talking about this book? It came out in early 2008, and there isn’t even a paperback edition available in the United States.
And then the marketing of this book had started working on a level above itself, performing for me, the mechanism of web marketing, rather than requiring me to write about it. I have to think that this book’s author must be proud, if he knows, that his book on the irrationality of human behavior has been irrationally plunged into success several years later by the discovery of a seven-month-old book outline on a Wikipedia lookalike site. Because whereas book marketing might once have depended heavily upon PR tours and appearances, or plugging on major television stores, what happens now is that one mention leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another, and that means that now Jason Kottke has mentioned you, and if it spreads to Seth Godin, well then, now we’re running out of used copies on Amazon.
And I think that everyone who worries about “giving away” their content online (Associated Press, I am looking in your general direction) should remember this in the future, rather than nickel and diming themselves out of business.