mardi 14 décembre 2010

Barcode scanning?

Lately, Amazon added a barcode scanning feature to the iPhone mobile app.

I have to admit that it is, technically, an awesome feature: to scan a barcode, you only need to approximately put the red line on it, and it very quickly provides you with the information about the book you are scanning.

Oh, and as opposed to what I am doing on the picture, you must not put your finger in the way, either.

OK, I have been stunned by the technical prowess, but I am left wondering: what is this feature good for? The whole point of it is that you have to be holding the very book in your hand to scan the barcode. Why, in this case, do I need to get to Amazon in the first place?

I tried to imagine a few scenarios where this feature could come in handy:

- I am at a bookshop, and I spot an interesting book, but I want to check if I cannot find a better bargain for it (e.g. as a used book).
- A person shows me the book, and I want to buy it now.
- I really loved this book, but now I have to return it to the library. I want to own it!

On the one hand, these all seem perfectly reasonable scenarios. On the other hand, I think they are basically biased, since they are all based on the occurrence of several unrelated or, worse, opposite, events.

One event is common to all three scenarios: I really want the book, be it a love at first sight or after carefully reading it.

The other event depends on the scenario.

The first scenario exhibits an opposite event, since on one hand I do want the book but, on the other hand, I am ready to wait a while to have it. We are all used to that, aren't we? You have the object right there in your hands, but you are perfectly ready to wait... Trust me, it has to be a hell of a bargain for me to resist the temptation to buy it right now.

The other two scenarios are based on the straightforward assumption that I cannot buy the physical object I have at hand. They are also based on the sloppy assumption that I will forget all the information, including the title, about a book I really want to have, as soon as it vanishes from my view. This is possible, but not really plausible: I don't need to buy it at once; I can wait a bit to return to my comfort zone, and nevertheless be able to buy the book.

All in all, I am not really convinced by the actual need for such a feature.

And call me pompous if you want, but I picked up a book at random next to my bed for the above photo, and Amazon did not find it on its virtual shelves!

Sic transit gloria mundi...

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