Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Christmas shopping: online, instore

Posted on 29 November 2006 No comments yet

Last night, I think I shopped in the 21st Century for the first time.

For all that’s been said about the benefits of online shopping, there’s still nothing like going into a shop and browsing through real, physical products. Bookshop geek-factor aside, the simple fact that you can pick up a book and flick through its pages is something the Internet just can’t (currently) offer, despite Amazon’s best efforts with their ‘Look Inside’ feature. Yet we all know that this pleasure comes at a price: real-world shops can’t compete with online retailers’ offers. So last night, standing in the cosy warmth of Borders in Oxford Street, I decided to merge the two… and it forever changed the way I shop.

I’d spent a decent amount of time thumbing my way through various potential Christmas presents for Samantha and was ready to buy them all, but I was plagued by the almost-certain knowledge of how cheap these books most likely were on Amazon. So I got out my phone and went online; not something I do regularly because of the bandwidth costs, but something I was more inclined to do yesterday, having installed the Opera Mini browser just that morning. (By the way, for anyone using the default ‘Orange World’ browser, you’ll live a fuller and happier life by switching to Opera Mini, believe me.)

What happened next is fairly obvious: I found all of the books on Amazon and they were all much cheaper than in Borders. No surprise there. So the only real logical step I could take was to sign into my account and add them all to my basket. Not wanting to waste bandwidth and still feeling a little wary of SSL security over the mobile internet, I left the actual purchasing until I was home at my Mac (am I worrying unnecessarily?), but as I returned the books to their shelves in Borders, I felt secure in the knowledge of having those items in my basket.

Of course, this is no way to repay a bookshop I love to visit, whose facilities are essentially being abused. But what choice do I have? I could’ve just bought the books from Borders, but then I would’ve spent about a third more – in my mind, a very significant amount.

I must admit that there was another downside: leaving the store empty-handed somehow felt I hadn’t achieved what I’d set out to do, but the unexpected lighter load in my bag was most definitely compensated for by my heavier wallet. Shopping really will never be the same again.

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