November 8, 2008

Nothing new under the second sun

After my recent experience of looking for, discovering and buying eBooks on the Sony Connect on-line store (see previous post on this subject) I got thinking about the lack of a physical book-shop/office browsing metaphor for electronic books (and newspapers, magazines etc).

Then it came to me in a flash! (Over a beer with colleagues actually! That brainstorming chemistry still works!)

Off-course! Second Life! I’d set-up a book-shop in second life for all those tech-savvy book worms in the second world, sell a million and retire!

I’ve been interested in Second Life for quite some time, in particular due to an interest in anything digital and 3D, plus its virtual economy, plus the social networking aspect. But I’d never got around to using it for real, and now I had the perfect opportunity.

After the download and registration I “fell to earth” on the orientation island and started wondering around with other people who also looked lost.
I think they should call it "Disorientation Island".
That was pretty boring and it was time for bed (in the real world! I’m not even sure if day and night exist in second life!) to I stopped there.

The next day I logged in again and started using the search function with "book" as the keyword. What surprised me was the number of book clubs, or reading groups. I joined one and got some spam the next day about it.

But I was looking for a bookstore and eventually found one (on initial searching I could only find one, but maybe there are more) - Bantam Dell Books. As with many good ideas, someone had already thought of it. So I abandoned my thoughts of retiring and thought more of writing a blog entry about the experience.

A Teletransport trip later and I was standing outside in a strange landscape for a bookstore.
I wondered into the store (do they ever close?).

There was a large, but sparsely populated bookshop complete with book stands, shelves, posters, live digital signage, adverts for books and podcasts and audio books, a café and reading chairs. There was one other person there wondering around (a bit snooty, wouldn’t talk to me!) and someone seated.

The seated person's name was something Linden and so I wondered if a relation of the “god” who created this second world. They wouldn’t help either. I was looking for a staff member to help me find a book, but to no avail (just like a real store!)

If you clicked on a book you got a standard Second Life “menu” of options that includes “touch”, but no “buy” or “pick up and leaf through”. Touching it opens a link to their on-line store in a separate web browser window and you take it from their in the “real” on-line world.
So the virtual experienced ends there. I don’t know enough about Second Life to know why they haven’t enabled a Second Life purchase directly using Linden dollars. Maybe the fact I didn’t have any was a factor? :-)

There were (I think) over 26,000 people on-line, but only one other person in the bookshop when I was there and none at all when I returned a day later.

How long before Sony connect their "Connect" store with their “Home” virtual world?

I can imagine this being a way to browse and listen to Music too, before on-line purchase.

I was amused a few days later when I got some Amazon spam to sell me a new book, and the same day I saw the same book on the front page of the Sony Connect store under “new releases” to discover that I’d already seen it – in Second Life and that I wasn’t interested. Life imitating fiction?

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