It’s definitely a novel idea.
1. Conventionally, vending machines carry two kinds of products – impulse purchases, and regular purchases which one stocks up on – like cigarettes/condoms, etc. Books, and childrens books, don’t fall in these categories – unless you have reason to believe that they do, in India (it’s possible, but I’d like to hear some reasons or findings to that effect). Also, my understanding of the purchase frequency of something like this is a once a month at most – which is much lower than typical VM products.
2. The entire rationale for a Vending Machine is to cut costs on the overhead of a shop, as well as provide 24/7 availability – Most railway stations/bus stations have bookstores already, which everyone uses. In our country, the cost of running a store isn’t high enough for vending machines to exist. Yet.
3. Technology adoption in India is a mystery – some technologies take years to be adopted, and some things outdo every country (like cellphones, for instance) – there is a technology angle to this – that of educating the buyer of how to use the machine – this isn’t a very helpful point, because all I’m saying is that it might swing either way. Heh. 🙂
4. My opinion is that the reason this might work is not because of a large demand for the product, but more a novelty of using the VM, and the impulse of suddenly buying something. If there was a large demand, having or not having a VM wouldn’t make a huge difference – it would merely be a matter of convenience. If however it does work, and people buy one, and get hooked to the books, and this drives some sort of wave/fad/trend of buying, it might in turn drive the demand of the books up – that’s the optimistic point of view.
@Mr. D: Good points, all of them. I’m wondering if price points will make a difference to the success or failure of this idea. What if we price the books really low, to compete *with* the booksellers on the platform et. al.? Also, novelty isn’t a sustainable method of operations, no?
As Anon 1 mentioned -location would surely be an important factor. With places like bus stops and railway stations, vending machines could (at times) intimidate people. But then again, if the psychedelic weight machines seem to be a hit amongst the people, this could attract people as long as the prices are not high.
Many malls these days have a centre to look after your kids while you grab a bite or do some shopping. A vending machine in such a place would also be a good idea.
I agree with Maya – South Africa’s Freedom Toaster is a huge success in shopping malls and universities (different audience to what you’re trying to reach though).
Gautam, Herman Manson is one of SA’s top branding / marketing experts. You can follow him on Twitter (marklives) or here: http://www.marklives.com/
And if you want an introduction, please shout. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind helping your cause 🙂
Isn’t Pratham trying to reach children who are slightly disadvantaged? I mean, kids in urban areas have certainly more access to books than their rural/townie counterparts.
So, having colourfully lit up vending machines with book covers / illustrations that catch the eye of the rural/townie parents and kids will be a viable option.
A touch screen kiosk giving you a synopsis of the book, the price, other books in the same genre/ setting is also something to think over. Computerized kiosks are expensive but for a cause like this, I am sure helping hands will abound.
Language also plays a role – are you focussin on English or Hindi titles? And for what age group?
Enough has been said about the Internet slowly killing the passion that people share for books – but the Net has made reading much more interactive, inexpensive, easy to navigate and customise your reading experience.
Novel ideas such as a Book VM will have to out-best the Internet even in rural / town areas, where computers and the Internet have made deep inroads!
All the best,
Hats off to Pratham Books. I am constantly impressed and envious about the fact that they first do and then talk about it. Usually, publishing house do the opposite. Cheers to your amazing team of creative, dynamic professionals.
Its true that location is important but so is the mass reachability. I think Pratham Books is bringing forward a revolution of sorts. Kids who are at an economic disadvantage can be helped to read books if we can create mass scale awareness. In bus stops and railway stations, vending machines may intimidate people but they will get used to it just as they've got used to ATMS and now everyone knows its use.
In Delhi, most malls have these kiosks but whenever I've tried using them, something gets stuck and then manual assistance is required. I think user friendly functionality is very important. A vending machine in popular places like malls, cafeterias, Railway stations, popular libraries in a city or rural area, and near playschools and local schools would also be a good idea to boost a love for books in kids.
I think this endeavor by Pratham Books is amazing and totally different from the typical money making goal that most publishers pursue.
I would love to support this cause in any way that I can.
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