My Life System #91: Books and Bookstores – 3

During a short business trip to Singapore, I had some time between meetings. Given my love for bookstores [see Part 1 and Part 2], it was no surprise that I found myself at Kinokuniya. It is one of the largest and best stores I have ever come across – possibly after Strand in New York. While I went in with a few titles to browse, I love the way a good bookstore organises the books – the adjacency of arrangement opens so many new possibilities. And that is exactly what happened to me. I came across many books that I had not previously come across. I ended up buying seven books in under an hour of browsing. And therein lies a story.

I start by going to sections I like: Business (especially Leadership, Marketing, Sales), Investing, Asia, History, and Science. What I especially like is that each section has its own New Arrivals collection which is very helpful. I normally have a list of books for future purchase as an Amazon Wish List. As it turns out, the only book in my purchases which was on my list was Material World. The book What A Unicorn Knows is one I had heard of when it was first announced almost a year ago, and had forgotten the title. Seeing it there on the shelves was a delight – because it was a book I was very keen to read. Some of the other titles were too good to not pick up: Chinafy, Centennials, Seeing the How among them. I like books on China tech companies because it is so hard to get English language content on the successes there. Centennials was about building enduring, great companies and it also gave me a new word to use, and Seeing the How was about how to spot marketing trends and better understand consumer behaviour. Business Storytelling is a book which I figured could give me ideas on how to shape the Netcore narrative.

The book I deliberated a bit about was The Imperfectionists – it was quite different from the ones I normally seek out. But the description persuaded me. How could I say No to: “Imperfectionists are curious, they look at problems from several perspectives, and gather new data and approaches, including from outside their current industry. They deliberately step into risk, proceeding through trial and error, utilizing nimble low consequence and reversible moves to deepen their understanding of the unfolding game being played, and to build capabilities. They accept ambiguity and some apparent failures in exchange for improved learning and market position. Imperfectionists succeed with dynamic, real time strategic problem solving, confidently moving forward while others wait for certainty, or make impetuous and foolish bets.”? I thought it applied well to me!

I don’t worry about the price. I know books in Singapore are priced higher, but this is where my $100 Delta Decision Rule comes into play. Each book was a treasure of wisdom, and I didn’t want to wait till cheaper editions became available in India.

As I walked out with the books in tow, I thought about bookstores and the experience they create – seeing similar books next to each other (decisions made by a thoughtful category manager), ability to pick a book and randomly browse through the pages, and discovering titles one wasn’t aware even existed. This is what I look for in a physical store – an experience online hasn’t been able to create. I wish someone would create a “book metaverse” – a 3D model replicating the ability to scan dozens of thoughtfully organised books. A search or section-wise scan should not be the only ways to browse books online. This image from TripAdvisor is what needs to be replicated online, along with a “Look Inside” option.

To end, here are three suggestions:

  • Always keep a “books to buy” list handy – an Amazon Wish List does the job well.
  • When you have some time during your travels, go to a bookstore in the city. The world (of books) as seen from there will be different, and you will find some titles you would not otherwise have known.
  • If you spend more than a few minutes with a book, buy it.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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