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Automating Discovery: How Book Buying Has Changed in the Last 100 Years

By Tom Cowen
March 6, 2014

In Christine Carragee’s recent blog, she discussed how companies are changing the way they do business as described in the book Automate This by Christopher Snyder.  Today, we take those thoughts further by looking at Automating Discovery.

Let’s take ourselves back 138 years in time.  For arguments sake, let’s say that I heard at the local pub that Snyder had just published this great book Automate This.  In 1876, I would for the first time have the ability to use the new Dewey Decimal System.  At this time I would have received a 4 digit number 764.5.  I would then proceed to the row with books in the 700’s and look for 764.5.  In all likelihood, since the whole pub had just heard about this great new book, it probably would not be there.  Since Algorithms were not yet in vogue and this was Snyder’s first book, I probably walked out of the library empty handed.

The state of book location and discovery stayed largely the same for the next 100 years.  But, things would soon change.  In the late 1970’s, Barnes & Noble and Borders opened Book Superstores.  Suddenly, some of my Saturday nights were spent, not at the local pub, but at Barnes & Noble.  Book Discovery had now changed for the better.  I now explored for 2 hours with a cappuccino in my hand.  If I had a book in mind ahead of time, I likely found it, as each store contained tens of thousands of books.  More importantly, I might have discovered Automate This sitting on a table with dozens of other related titles on Algorithms.  Overall, my book discovery experience had improved.

As we went from the 1990’s to the 2000’s, Borders went out of business and book buying switched to Amazon.  Suddenly, when I searched on “Snyder” or “Automate” or “Algorithms,” I was presented not only with Automate This, but also books on Algorithms, all of Snyder’s books and other books that readers of Automate This purchased.  Today with Amazon, I read 3x the amount annually then I ever had before.

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  • algorithms , Amazon , Automate This , Book Discovery , Profit Discovery

    Tom Cowen

    Tom Cowen is an industry veteran with 20 years of experience in Sales, Financial and Price Management at High Tech and Media Companies. Tom spent the first five years of his career at Hearst Magazines where he was Business Planning Manager for the Corporate Marketing and Sales team. He served the previous 13 years of his career as a Global and Enterprise Sales Manager at market-leading technology companies: Oracle, EMC and BEA Systems. As a Global Sales Executive, Tom has managed the Sales and Negotiation Process effectively with top tier customers:  General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Merck and McGraw-Hill.