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Leave your sceptic behind ... listen in while I explain about our NFC Bookmarks.

In 1932 book tokens first went on sale, introduced by Harold Raymond publisher at Chatto and Windus. The inspiration came from watching friends exchange a limited selection of books as Christmas gifts.

Introducing a concept where people parted with their money in return for a paper token which could be redeemed for a book in a bookshop (in the form of green shield stamps), in the midst of a great depression must have met with initial scepticism. Innovation is often viewed with scepticism.

Eighty years later and the sceptics are forgotten. Today Book Tokens are still going strong, their appeal refreshed along their journey as they moved from green shield stamps to a single paper voucher of sufficient value to purchase a book with a new logo. Next came plastic cards with bright designs that could reflect the receivers personality or age of birthday and a national Book Token website which offers inspiration and locations where vouchers can be redeemed.

In the 1930s, the purpose of book tokens was to get people into bookshops, to show them that they weren't intimidating places but idylls where one could relax, browse and discover new writers and books. Almost eight decades later, the battlefield remains the same: but now the fight is over where books are bought, rather than whether people are buying them. Guardian Books Blog 5th of December 2008

The future of bookshops has been discussed and debated by many of the Books&Print projects, I think I can speak for the collective; physical books are intrinsic to life and we all want to support the existence of independent and high street bookshops in the face of the e-book, online retail warehouse. Book shops are magical places, where you discover and begin a journey with words inspired by touch, vision and recommendation.

This said, Digitising the Dollar Princess is a digital book app with lofty aspirations of housing itself on the Google Play store (you may need to read an earlier article which explains why we think digital is right for this project). Embarrassingly...this somewhat flies in the face of the romantic vision of supporting the local bookshop. Until maybe, I share with you our NFC bookmarks.

A green, pink and a blue NFC bookmark

We want to introduce a new way of buying, giving and sharing with friends a digital book.

NFC logo

(Our bookmarks use the NTAG203 tag by RapidNFC)

Bear with us (push scepticism aside) and imagine a day where bookshops and museums, alongside beautiful paper books for their customers who like to hold and read paper, can sell an intriguing bookmark which contains a download trigger for their customers who choose (sometimes) to read digitally. 

If we accept that the ebook market share is still climbing (remember your sceptic is keeping shtum), bookshops need to get into this digital retail space and in doing so they might even create the perfect equilibrium; satisfying two types of customer, and even selling both real books and digital ones to the same customer.

At this moment, this method of delivering content through an NFC bookmark will only appeal to those with NFC devices, but with Asus, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Nokia, LG and Blackberry all shipping NFC in their smartphone and tablet product range we feel excited about talking to publishers and retailers about a new way they might in the future sell digital books.NFC is still in its trial phase, but it's got a big future. ABI Research predicts that 1.95 billion NFC-enabled devices will ship in 2017, largely in smartphones, though NFC will also enter the living room. WiFi routers will swap passwords for a simple 'tap' from any smartphone, tablet or games console, with 395 million consumer electronics devices to ship in 2017 – in other words, NFC will be in everything. Techradar January 16, 2013

As for the inspiration behind our NFC bookmarks, six months ago when Digitising the Dollar Princess was an introduction (Nicola meet Charlotte, Charlotte meet Nicola) and a very genuine first exploratory forage into what the potential for this project was. Nicola and I found the android app market place devoid of sophisticated, intelligent app offerings. On one hand this seemed a perfect challenge, however visibility in an immature, chaotic Google Play Store could present a problem? Furthermore, having classified our target audience we weren't convinced they had the inclination, confidence or endurance to swim through and find our app (* I've since learnt I may be wrong on this point). Drawing on Bow Software'sexperience of NFC applications, creating a bookmark as another way of attracting our readers' attention and creating a tactile way to buy a digital book, (which you could wrap and pass from your hand to that of a friend's) was a concept I was passionate to explore.

To hanker back to scepticism...when we interviewed for this project back in November at the Watershed, for me it was the bookmark which took the flack. On leaving the room, I was convinced the panel hated the idea (except Kenton O'Hara who I remember tried his best to throw me a lifebuoy). Five months later at our last Books&Print show and tell meeting, the tactile, eye catching bookmarks ...went down a storm … you need to listen to feedback and reservations, but if you believe in your idea, I really believe scepticism can steel your nerves.

Mary Curzon dipslay including NFC bookmarks, images and a device with the Mary Curzon app

(*By the way, sitting with my in-laws who have recently converted from hand me down iphones to Samsung Galaxy  S3's I was corrected...they know all the android apps. They've got the one for turning your heater on in the painting shed at the bottom of the garden, and their bell ringing friend excused himself in the pub as he used an app to 'just switch on the lights at home' as a burglar deterrent. It seems the 60+ set have the time and more than have the confidence and endurance to navigate the app stores).

 

This article was first published on REACT Digitising Dollar Princess blog:

http://www.react-hub.org.uk/books-and-print-sandbox/projects/2013/digitising-the-dollar-princess/

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