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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.

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Mike Cane July 2, 2012 um 2:47 pm

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.

Robert July 2, 2012 um 2:50 pm

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

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2012 um 2:53 pm

A website can get a lot of info from me clicking a link. What would they get from the QR code that would be more useful?

Doug July 2, 2012 um 2:56 pm

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.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2012 um 2:58 pm

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

Doug July 2, 2012 um 3:01 pm

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.

Tyler July 2, 2012 um 9:42 pm

I have the Note, It rocks except for battery life.

Vili July 3, 2012 um 1:47 am

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.

paula July 3, 2012 um 8:59 am

how about not having to type URLs on my phone?

DavidW July 3, 2012 um 9:05 am

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?

Nate Hoffelder July 3, 2012 um 5:09 pm

They are a minority, yes:

According to Forrester Research (FORR), only 5 percent of Americans scanned a QR code between May and July of last year, the latest data available.


“Very few people want to visit your corporate website to begin with,” says Kelli Robertson, a director at AKQA, a digital ad agency acquired by WPP on June 20. “Fewer want to do it when they’re out in the world or reading a magazine.”

HarperCollins Unbound Bridges Print, Digital – The Digital Reader November 4, 2013 um 8:48 pm

[…] links to additional digital content. It is similar in concept to the QR codes that S&S started adding to the backs of books last year, though it is obviously more […]

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