I was procrastinating one afternoon. . .
In plain English: I was wasting time online and received an email announcing the month’s meagre takings from Amazon. After a year of supporting locally-owned shops, I bit the bullet and listed Your Day Your Tao with the Big A. I’m a reader and believer of ink-on-paper books that I buy with cash in locally-owned brick-and-mortar shops, but I recognize that there are quite a few people who don’t share my views on the subject. I also recognize the irony of calling myself a Luddite while using the web to talk about my Amazon experience.
Since I’d pretty much forgotten about the listing, I took a look at my book’s page to see what these people were seeing and was more than surprised to see my E-book version was ranked at #47 in its Tao category. I don’t own an E-reader and have no plans to buy one. But in this case, I’m thankful for all those people who disagree with me. The ranking felt good and I posted a screen grab on FB and enjoyed the praise for a day or so, while remembering what many people have said about A’s weird ranking algorithms, as well as what Andy Warhol said about 15 minutes of fame.
Hell. I just had to look up algo-whatever so I could spell it. I can’t spell the word, much less even understand the math behind it. It’s one of those words not even my spellcheck can fix since I start it off so many different ways. You’d think after all these journeys into an online dictionary I’d have learned it. But no. I’m just another case history proving what the science says: we retain more of what we learn from paper than from screens.
This morning I went back online to check things again. I found that the rankings vary by a country’s page [US, UK, Germany, etc.] and that in each case my E-book and paperback versions were ranked separately, not as high as my earlier ranking. As a matter of fact, they’d slipped beneath the top hundred listing, back to the middle of the pack. A few hours later I found that the rankings had changed again, up and down without any pattern I could discern, except for the fact that others’ books in other countries were probably selling at a faster pace than mine. And that the moon was nearly full.
So…have I mentioned that I prefer paper to pixels? At least once?
Here’s why –
For me, one of life’s pleasures is standing in front of a bookshelf, scanning covers and thumbing through candidates for my own shelf. It’s a tactile sensation and emotional satisfaction you don’t really get scrolling down a screen. Over the years I’ve purchased – and enjoyed – countless books that jumped off shelves at me. Their authors and topics hadn’t been in my consciousness and they’d have been invisible scanning a mail order screen. But I’m glad they entered my life. I don’t know how successful I was, but in my teaching days I tried to force a library experience on my students, most of whom were STEM students taking required liberal arts courses. I knew that if they had even a miniscule amount of curiosity [or boredom with the assignment] they’d discover things in the stacks they’d never find online. A book title, unique binding or cover, or something else catches your eye further down the shelf or on one of the shelves you’re scanning while you’re looking for your target book by number. It’s the same as browsing in a bookstore, a strange planet [like live theatre] that few of them had ever ventured to. If you’re old enough, you may remember the Sydney Harris newspaper column, “Things I Learned En Route to Looking Up Other Things.”
Algorithms can’t replace a friend suggesting a book we might like. I don’t know about your history, but in my experience, web recommendations are based on past purchases that may not be representative of my habits or current interest. I guess I need to spend more money online to train it. A few months ago I went to review a friend’s new book and was disqualified because I don’t spend enough money online, even though I’d purchased my copy [and several gift copies] through the online titan.
Anyway, if you’d like to see what’s driving these online sales and further destroying my credentials as a Luddite, you can check out either of my two websites.
Also, if you follow any of my social media accounts, you may have seen ads where I tease samples from the book. Here are some of the dozen I’ve been rotating. I still haven’t made the time to quote from page 138, where I point out that the ancient Egyptians had two different verbs for procrastination. One carried much the same meaning that we use today: a negative description of laziness. The other was in the spirit of Tao: Use your intelligence to avoid unnecessary tasks.