Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Forget Algorithms... Great Handselling 'Requires Soul'

Left - Customers browsing by flashlight during a power outage at McLean & Eakin last week.

"When we recommend a book to a customer, we don't know exactly how it will be received. It's a bit like dropping off your child for their first day of school and wondering what the teacher will think about our parenting skills.

We look into their eyes and ask them what they've read; we find out where they are from and try to glean any information we can. The questions we ask, and the conversations we have are personal. We are trying to assess in one minute or less what kind of a person we are talking to without invading their privacy. What should we send into their lives via our book suggestion?
We aren't just finding out about their reading tastes, we are finding out about their substance and values. Is he or she introspective, adventurous, imaginative? Have they experienced grief recently, should we endorse something classic or contemporary, will they think fiction is trite?

We send those books out into the world, and fret about whether or not they will be valued. A book can be so much more than a book. Sure, it's sentimental, but we take some of our books very seriously. Out of all of the books in the world, there is no way we could ever pick just the perfect book without meeting you, so each book below will only be special to you if you connect with it personally.
We hope you do, and if not, tell us what you are like, and we will pick out something just for you... and we hazard to guess that is something an algorithm can never do. It requires soul."

--from an e-newsletter sent out by McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich


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