Work to make a sale. What’s that? Marketing an idea. What’s that? Ingenuity – where has it gone?

photo hell in a handbasket by jamelah via flickr

Hell in a Handbasket by jamelah via flickr

A rant.

The United States has been traditionally the place where if a better mouse trap was needed, a better mouse trap was built, and the people found their way to the better mouse trap.  In other words, good ideas came up, good ideas became reality as products and services, everybody was happy.

In the twenty-first century it seems that a combination of stultifying factors is preventing natural buyers and sellers from getting together.  First off, sellers apparently don’t want to sell anything that doesn’t make a million bucks on opening day.  Work to make a sale.  What’s that?  Marketing an idea. What’s that?

There used to be alternate vendors, people who would take a product, say one used within an industry, subdivide it into smaller quantities, and sell it to a specialized market at a slightly higher price.   (A current example of this is my local garden center who sells crushed stone to gardeners at a price of $7 per half cubic foot while the business providing crushed stone to landscapers sells it by the ton at a price that is much less than $7 a half cubic foot.)

Ah, you say, but you’ve just given me an example of an alternate vendor.  Yes indeed, but one that is a holdover from the twentieth century.  Doesn’t count.  I’m talking about products either that are new or no one has seen the demand yet, but the potential demand makes sense once you think about it.

So, I must be talking about a particular experience.  Yes, indeed.

Book Cover of Designing the New Kitchen Garden

Somewhere online I saw a book recommended  Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer R. Bartley.   I looked it up on on Amazon.com, then I looked it up in the County Library System’s online catalog.  Whenever possible I get a book from the library first so that I buy only books that I know I want to keep.  And this book is a keeper.

I bought the book from Amazon.com and it arrived while I still had the library book at home.  I know that I’m going to be using this book a lot.  The library book was encased in a clear plastic cover to protect the book’s jacket and binding.  I realized then that I wanted to protect my new book in the same way.

Poor me.  It never occurred to me that library book covers would not be available to me in a realistic fashion.  I went to look online putting library supplies in the search engine.  For the size of my book jacket (10.25″ high and 27″ long)  I would have had to buy 50 book covers at anywhere from $18 to $50 depending on the quality of the plastic film and other features of the book cover.  Now, coming down to a range of $0.36 to $1 per book cover, I am not at all surprised that they don’t sell single book covers.  But from my point of view, what was I going to do with 49 book covers after I covered Bartley’s book?  Even though the book covers themselves are ecologically sound for the protection of books, 49 unused book covers is a waste of resources.  Surely, I thought, there must be a vendor who sells to individuals.

I found a rare book seller online who claimed to offer library book covers in quantities of 10, but when I emailed him, he responded that he no longer provided that service.  So I continued my search.

I wrote to Amazon and suggested that they offer library book covers on pages of hardcover books.  They wrote back that they’d take it under advisement.  Will they recognize the possibilities?  Not in time to help me.

What are the possibilities?  Clearly, libraries and rare book sellers and collectors are the prime market.  But there are many of us who love books who, perhaps, never thought about the possibility of protecting them from the ravages of use and the environment.  Yes, this takes education.  Yes, this takes marketing!  Advertising! Work!

I went to my local library to return my library copy and asked the woman at the check-in desk if I could purchase a library book cover from the library to cover my own copy of the book.  The check-in lady was wonderful in tracking down an answer for me.  She didn’t even take the answer from the woman she asked.  She went in search of a direct answer from the person in charge.  When she returned, she was clearly referencing the tone of the decision-maker when she told me in a voice that bridled with umbrage, “No, we can’t possibly sell you a book cover.”  Later, when I was checking out other books, she came over to tell me that a new book by one of the authors I had just returned was available.  I think she felt bad about the whole thing.

But, My God, they could have charged me $5 for a thirty-six cent book cover and I would have been thrilled.

In the meantime, they are selling canvas totes to promote the library.  Do you have any idea how many canvas totes I have?  All of them given to me for free.  They can sell me a canvas tote but they can’t sell me a book cover?  I swear American bureaucracy has hardening of the arteries.

This is why this country is going to hell in a handbasket.  There’s no creative thinking.

But I solved the problem for myself, no thanks to them.  I had a small pile of used books that I bought in the library’s book sale for 50 cents each and which I later decided I didn’t want.  All of them had library covers.  One of them was large enough for my book.  Somebody has ingenuity.

Book cover of yet to be released "The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook"

I covered the book and now feel secure that the book can withstand use and still remain an attractive book to share with friends.

Bartley is coming out with a new book and I am looking forward to it.  I love Designing the Kitchen Garden and heartily recommend it.