art booksI saw a specialty display at Indigo the other day which sucked me right in: art books. I have always aspired to have skills in this area and never felt like I really did. The featured book of this display was on a technique calling ‘zentangling’ which promised success for everyone: it’s just small doodles or patterns, repeated in miniature many times over. The finished designs are surprisingly slick-looking, and I coveted the book, going back to look at it several times, before pulling the trigger.

I’m happy with my purchase, and feel that this is exactly the sort of book a bricks-and-mortar chain should be promoting. It’s so graphics-heavy that it makes for a beautiful paper copy, and when beauty matters, I will spring for the paper over the pixels without hesitation. It also has other incentives attached to the paper copy, such as baked-in assignments where they will start a pattern for you and urge you to finish it, or otherwise provide a space right in the book for you to write or draw. It was worth it to me to get the paper copy so I could take full advantage of these features.

But if was baffling to me how the Indigo people seemed to make some effort to promote the book—the big table display and so forth—but yet still fail to fully exploit the potential a title like this might offer for cross-promotion. They did pair the book with an array of day planners, sketch pads, marker sets and office supplies of a somewhat random nature, and so forth. But the several other books on this subject were all off in a corner in an ‘art’ section and not bundled with this title. And all of the books recommended a certain brand of marker which was not the brand that Indigo was selling.

photo 2The rational part of my brain has logical explanations for all of this. Maybe this one book title paid for the feature promotion spot. But why should it work that way? Why should Indigo be wedded to that model of doing business when another model—pick a book with numerous tie-in products, sell all of those and make up, in volume of sales, for the revenue you’ll forgo from the payment for the table spot—has so much more potential? And similarly, the more-cynical-than-me Beloved was quick to point out that perhaps the book’s author had a partnership of some kind with the marker people, and her ‘recommendation’ was driven more by a need to toe the party line on who the corporate buddy is than by any feature of the marker brand specifically.

But it’s just wasted opportunity in my view. Yes, Indigo did sell another marker brand, and yes, there probably are business reasons, both from the book’s author, and from Indigo, on why that might be. But there is a Happy-Rules-Follower who lives inside my head who was very stuck on having the ‘right’ markers that the book told me to have, and I did wind up making a special trip to the art store to get them before I started using my new book. It’s fine, I guess. The marker is not an unobtainable commodity, and there is no reason I can’t go elsewhere to get it, right? But still—if it had been right there, beside the book, I would have bought it at Indigo right then and there. So they lost potential profit here.

And why stop at just the markers? I saw several Etsy listings from people who practice this art method which had adorable little bundles for aspiring artists. One of them was a little travel tin with a marker, a pencil and sharpener, little square samples of several different types of paper, and a tiny booklet with ideas to use in your drawings. It was all so cute and put-together, but alas, she doesn’t ship to Canada. Why not put stuff like this right with the book?

If the bricks-and-mortar stores want to survive in the e-age, I think they need to start thinking more about opportunities like this, for books where there is a physical element the eBooks can’t compete with. Bundle a cookbook with an ingredients pack which makes one of the recipes, or with cookware, or fancy serving plates. Make a ‘vegetarian starter pack’ or a ‘barbecue starter pack’ or some other topically linked collection with a few carefully chosen books, some accessories and a little gift bag or bow or something. Sure, it’s just repackaging stuff you have already, but why not if people will buy it, right?

photo 3As for me and my art book, it was a great little purchase and I am thrilled with it. I have already burned through one fancy marker and have to go back to the art store again and buy some more. And I have a sketchbook now, and pencil crayons and other stuff piling up at home…

All lost sales to Indigo, mind you. But hey, the art store is getting a little boost from Indigo’s promotion of this book, so at least someone’s seeing profits from this little promotion…

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. It probably was co-op, yet you go to Amazon and all the stuff you’re talking about will show up on the also boughts. Not just markers but also zentangle quilting and embroidery books, lettering books, etc. Of course, that might be co-op paid to Amazon as well but I think their system is far better than what I see at most b&m stores.

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