This weekend I felt a jolt of happiness after reading one of mails sent by Amazon. Now that, let me tell you, is something of a rarity! As a rule, I hate marketing mails and Amazon sends way too many such mails. Hot offers (Their words, not mine). Deal of the day. New products. Products that they think would be of interest to me. Just because one day when I had nothing to do, I had browsed through their babies’ toys section, the e-commerce behemoth thinks that I am dying to hear about the latest purple dinosaur thingies (or are those horses?) and new offerings from the House of Lego. So most mails from Amazon go straight to the trash bin with an artistic flick of my wrist. However the odd one does prove to be of interest to me (and that is the reason why I do not unsubscribe to the mailing service and continue to suffer through the next 25000 mails until the next interesting one comes along!). The one that I am talking about was a mail informing me about the upcoming release of Stephen Leather’s book Nightshade. It hasn’t been released yet – it will be published on the 26th of April. However Amazon is asking me to pre-order with the glittery promise that on the morning of 26th the book will magically be delivered into my Kindle.
I know that this is an eBook, so not many chances of it being sold out if I get around to buying it on the day of release or any day thereafter. Plus there is always a chance that if I can be patient and wait for a month after release, there be some kind of a discount deal available on the book. If I have yet more patience, the book will probably make its way to my council library and then after a short 4 or 5 months, I will get to read it for free. And who knows, the book might suck. After all no one has read it yet and so there are no reviews other than the very biased sales pitch being done by the publisher (‘Best Nightingale book ever!’). Still, you know what? I am going to fall for this one despite better judgement. The lure of a pre-order is so strong that I do not stop to listen to any logic. I pre-order on the spot at full price!
My affair with pre-orders started in the time of the boy wizard Harry Potter. Remember the craze surrounding each book release? Children and adults alike would line up in front of the stores hours before the midnight release time of the books. At that time, I lived in India where the market for English books is not huge. There were no stores opening their shutters at midnight unlike other places on earth and Potter-mania was also a little late to catch on there. So when the last instalment was due to come out, I had placed my order about a couple of weeks in advance. It felt sort of weird handing over 500 INR and getting nothing in return save a printed receipt. On the morning of the release, I rushed to the bookstore at the ungodly weekend hour of 8:30am and showing aforementioned receipt to the bored looking shopkeeper who then handed me the freshly minted hardcover book. Ah, the bliss! I remember striding out of the shop feeling all aglow from the inside, casting smug glances at all other shoppers, most of whom knew nothing about pre-ordering yet.
Since then I have pre-ordered many a book. Especially in the post kindle world. There is no queuing up in front of stores or even physically rushing to one. You just push the ‘Pre-order Now’ button. After that you just wait like an expectant mother and then on delivery day – Voila! The new baby is all yours. Conveniently and painlessly.
Of course, it is all a sales gimmick. A canny move by the marketing guys to ensure high initial sale volumes. This marketing strategy extends well beyond the world of books of course. Think Apple. Think Halo 4. Think of any anticipated product. Actually even some unanticipated ones are made to go down this route as marketing teams can be relied upon to drum up enough hype by placing posters and advertisements at the right places. According to Wikipedia, The highest grossing pre-order was apparently Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, followed by Avatar (2009 film) Blu-ray DVD release April 2010 & November 2010 Collector’s edition. Really, an OS takes the top spot? What does that mean – that the earlier versions were so bug-ridden and terrible that people could not wait to upgrade?
Well it might be a gimmick – however there is no denying that it has caught on. It may just be that it ticks all the right boxes for today’s consumerist society. It is all about gratification. And spending quick bucks. And it gives you the chance of going one up on the Joneses. And it is convenient. And it is cool. What is not to love?
Do you pre-order much?