Monday, August 10, 2009

Make Way for eBooks and Book Ads

Last month, Barnes & Noble launched an online store for digital books with 700,000 titles. Moreover, they intend to stock more than a million eBooks in the coming 12 months. To read them, you can download the free eReader from their website which is compatible with iPhone, iTouch, BlackBerry, PC and Mac. It is interesting to note here that it is not compatible with either Kindle from Amazon or the Sony Reader. To get ahead in the battle of eBooks, Amazon recently released a free software to turn our iPhones and iTouch into Kindles.

If all this wasn't enough, now there are talks of placing ads in e-books! Imagine scrolling down Pride and Prejudice to find an ad for a toothpaste. Thankfully, the ads will try and be contextual or be based on the customer's user profile. As if that is any relief.

Don't get me wrong here. Though I love the smell of a brand new book and lose track of time in a bookstore, I am not really averse to the idea of eBooks. I am all for technology and moving on...and of course, marketing.

I see the bright side like how ads in eBooks will bring down the cost of both the books and the reading devices.

The ad revenue will positively impact the author, the publisher, the e-book store, the device manufacturers.

The competition between Amazon and Barnes & Noble will result in more and more eBooks and also a better reading experience.

The printing world is anyway trying to revamp itself through this digital revolution. One more change wouldn't hurt.

But what if this trend trickles down to print? According to Austin Modine in The Register, it is a possibility for anybody who wants to avail of a lower price in an on-demand book from Amazon.

Now that may be taking things too far. Or is it the future of reading?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Branding India

I have been writing for travel websites for more than a year now and the way I see it, each city is a brand. Each country needs to be placed right, much like a product. Tourism is an industry which needs to be promoted, much like a service.

Often what bothers me is how India is misrepresented time and again. The poverty is highlighted, women are shown as helpless or oppressed and everthing somehow points at some kind of slum tourism. Any trace of luxury or well-being is strictly avoided.

In a recent World Hum article, I came upon the sentence "In all my train rides so far, she was the first Indian woman I’d seen traveling solo; the first who wasn’t dressed in traditional clothing, and herding children around the train." Well, in all my years in India I have had plenty of opportunity to see women travelling solo, mostly for work and obviously not "herding" children.

The only time I saw the true flavor of an Indian city captured was when I caught an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.

I believe that the right advertising can make or break a brand so I thank the makers of the Incredible India Ad (see video above). It tries to give the right picture of India and succeeds beautifully. The ad portrays the country's diversity without resorting to visuals of the underbelly. Yes, every country has a seedier side to it but why would anybody want to use that to attact tourists beats me.

If we want to brand India, let's do it right.