How a magical pair of glasses can save your local bookstore. (N.B. They’re not Harry Potter’s)

Ok, Glass, take a photo.

Ok, Glass, film a video.

Ok, Glass, save my local bookstore.

The first two of these instructions Google’s shiny new prototype, Google Glass, can fulfil instantaneously. Simply, pop on the glasses, give the relevant verbal instruction and off they will go. A bit like a digital version of the self-sweeping broom in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The third one they can’t quite do yet but give it a year or so and I’m sure they will get there.

Turns out George Orwell was wrong about a dystopian future where we are all spied upon by a creepy paternal snoop called Big Brother and it’s going to be millions of Google Glass-wearing infantile Little Brothers and Sisters who turn the 21st Century into privacy-less hell on earth.

Weird is about to become the new normal. The Selfie Generation are going to embrace Google Glass with open arms and wallets and start doing all sorts of strange stuff like live streaming their love-making direct to You Tube and broadcasting awkward dates, as they are having them, via their Facebook pages. I guarantee that, shortly after the 2014 launch, the first crazed teen who goes into an American High School with an automatic weapon will be wearing Google Glasses so he can give his Twitter followers a live Killer-cam view of the whole event. 

That’s the bad news. And, once this particular sociological genie is out of the bottle, it will only get much worse.

The good news though is that Google Glass may be the very thing needed to give the kiss of life to that lesser-spotted high street dodo, your local bookstore.

As long as you are prepared to team a pair of them up with Roxy that is.

Roxy (not her real name) served me in the Newcastle branch of Waterstones last Saturday. She had a punky alternative look and was a credit to the store. Intelligent, friendly, knowledgeable about books and, it turned out, the music scene of Detroit and Detroit’s Check record label.

I was going to buy one book about Motor City from her. After our chat I bought two.

What a shame then that I can’t speak to someone like Roxy every time I want to buy a book. When I am shopping online for instance. Well, team a pair of Google Glasses to a face-to-face video system like Google Hang Outs, integrate them into the Waterstones website next to a button that says “Talk to a real live assistant in store,” and I will soon be able to do just that. 

Google Glass has the potential to change retail in profound ways because it will offer retailers, large and small, the opportunity to truly integrate their online offering with their offline stores. Sellers of big-ticket items like car showrooms, furniture stores and white goods manufacturers will be able to direct online browsers direct to an actual living, breathing, salesperson who can then take them to a real live product and demonstrate just how good it is. And how they definitely need to buy one. Or possibly two. Good sales people will, once again, be able to do what they have always done: create lasting relationships, sell people up, make customers come back, to them and them alone, for more.

What all this could mean for the publishing industry is, all of a sudden, mid-sized book chains and individual local stores will be able to offer their customers a hyper-personal online user experience that Amazon, given the massive scale of their customer base, will find it impossible to replicate.  

Ok, Glass, let’s take down that two hundred pound gorilla, Jeff Bezos.

All right, that’s not going to happen. But give him something to think about. Well, maybe.



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