There’s been a lot of talk lately about the government wanting to give Canadian consumers choice when it comes to their cable and satellite channels. Rather than being forced to purchase “bundles” of channels, the option to pick and choose seems like a good one. I know in my household, we watch a limited number of stations, and reduced our bundle package down when we realized we were paying for many channels that we didn’t watch, and only one “good” one in a certain bundle. It just doesn’t seem like smart buying. If we went to the grocery store and had to buy six boxes of cereal we didn’t like, in order to get one box that we’d eat, I’d switch to toast.
So what if we did that at bookstores and libraries? What if we put together bundles of books in different genres, say, and make patrons take them home. Would you continue to read? Would you read something you might not normally have picked up just because it was part of the bundle? Maybe. It might honestly be a good marketing ploy for libraries to do that. We might encourage readers to experiment, and also expose them to authors that might not be getting the “read” time others do.
But it might also make you hate us. I think this is basically where people stand on cable and satellite companies right now…a love/hate relationship. We’re bound to the companies in order to get our entertainment fix. If we had the choice, though, we’d all rather pick and choose.
So why aren’t the TV providers switching gears, aside from the obvious fact that they are probably making money off bundles? Wouldn’t they garner more customers (and therefore, customer satisfaction) if they allowed choice? That’s what we think. They’re not convinced.
Allowing customers to pick and choose would do a number of things: make the prices of individual channels soar, make many channels disappear altogether because they are essentially being paid for by subscription bundles, and make some channels merge with others, which would limit our choices once again. Of course, you’re not paying directly for books when you come to a library (your taxes do that part for you), so you might not feel like anything was being wasted if you took home a bundle of books and only read one of them. (The argument there, of course, is that people who don’t use the library are wasting their tax dollars altogether. But that’s a completely different problem. Let’s stick to the idea of bundles.)
We’re “stuck” with the choices libraries make for us, as well, when you think of it, but in a much broader sense. If they don’t carry a particular book, we’re able to ask for it through interlibrary loan, which is almost like purchasing a specialty channel, but without the fee. The idea of freely walking through a library or bookstore (or grocery store) to choose what we want is the most rewarding experience we can imagine. But would you think less of us if we occasionally suggested a great book we think you might like, even if it was something different than you usually take with you? Probably not.
Don’t worry, we won’t start bundling our books any time soon, but it’s interesting to think about the concept the way they do in television. What do you think?