Simon & Schuster to Add More Pointless Decorations to Backcovers of Paper Books

PaidContent reported earlier today that S&S, one of the major US publishers, has decided to muck up the back of their books with QR codes like the one below:

The idea behind this brainfart is that consumers will be able to scan the code with a QR code scanning app and be directed to a mobile site .

S&S chief digital officer Ellie Hirschhorn beleives that the codes will  “make it easy for consumers to visit our site and hopefully subscribe to one of our newsletters.” Perhaps, but this ease assumes that the consumer has the requisite scanning app (as well as a camera on the smartphone/tablet).

Right now I'm sitting here, staring at the QR code, and wondering why they would print anything other than a website URL.

Of all the tablets I have, guess how many have a QR code scanner? None. Guess how many have a browser? All of them.

What's more, I'd bet the number of mobile devices without cameras probably outnumber the ones that do have a camera. So even if I did have the app I couldn't do anything with it. On the other hand, if I have a website address I can type it in to the web browser.

Fortunately, it seems that S&S did figure out the general lack of cameras and QR scanning apps, because the covers will also include a URL for the author’s website “so consumers without smartphones or QR scanners could still easily find the author’s page.”

Um, if you also plan to have the website address spelled out them why have the QR code? It's simply clutter, and the URL actually does a better job - it works on all browsers, regardless of hardware.

P.S. If someone does know a good reason for this, please tell me. I'm always willing to learn.

About Nate Hoffelder (10081 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

11 Comments on Simon & Schuster to Add More Pointless Decorations to Backcovers of Paper Books

  1. Oxygen channel used to put hashtags in their billboard ads. They’ve stopped. And although QR Codes are still all over phone kiosk ads, I’ve seen two NFC ads pop up on phone kiosks. I wonder how many people will tap? I’ve never seen anyone other than me take a picture of a QR code.

  2. Scanning a QR code allows them to know where the link originated from. Definitely preferable from their end, assuming people do scan them…

  3. Dunno about whatever you’re using, but typing in a URL is rather painful on my smartphone. Between hitting the wrong “keys” and having to backspace and re-enter, and switching back and forth between letters and numbers/punctuation (how come I’ve got a “.com” key but not a “/” key on the alpha side?), it’s a process I avoid whenever possible.

    Or I could just start the (free) QR app instead of starting the browser, point the camera at the code, and take the picture.

    • My mobile device is usually a 7″ tablet (and sometimes larger). One of these days I plan to downsize to a Galaxy Note.

    • Oh, I should also add that if the code creator is paying attention, the QR code would go directly to the “mobile” version of the web site. The printed URL undoubtedly goes to the standard “big screen/high bandwidth” version. But again, if the web folks are paying attention, you can just replace “www.” with “m.” to get to the mobile version.

  4. I scanned this scanned picture with a free (actually this was installed on my phone) QR code reader, and it directs me to the mobile version of their site: http://authors….mobi/…Flynn/1214319. With those numbers at the end they can track if I came from a QR code link. It is good for them. And good for me, because I don’t have to type in the link, which is painful on a phone. Didn’t I mention that I used a phone for this? 🙂
    So yes, QR code is a plus. It makes me want to scan.

  5. how about not having to type URLs on my phone?

  6. I think that QR code scanners are a minority. And then out of those scanners, how many of them want to actually go to a publisher’s website? Publishers work best as invisible middle men. Readers care about authors and content not the editors and typesetters. A publisher is not a marketable brand. Who would assume that just because you like Mr X from a publisher you would also like Mrs Y from the same publisher?

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