I’m a firm believer that ebooks and paper books are far from mutually exclusive. Books aren’t music, and just as there will always be enormous building and small cottages filled to the brim with paper books, likewise ebooks will continue to thrive on screens of all sizes. It’s not a “versus” but rather an “and.”

Ask any scientist: all ecosystems mature. Those in nature can take millions of years to alter, but technology/human ones move so quickly that we’re now supposed to purchase a weird kind of “insurance” because our electronic devices are passé by the time we get them home.

Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle,
where I spent many happy childhood hours

Paper books bear no resemblance to records, tapes or CDs. And reading is a completely different process than listening to music. I have a lot of respect for independent bookstores, and I respectfully disagree with those who cry that ebooks are going to put them out of business. It pains me to see the business of a bookstore—any bookstore—in peril, but the reality is that this danger is not down to ebooks or electronic devices. It is because we, as a society, fail to celebrate and encourage reading nearly enough.

I know lots of people who read just paper books and want no part of ereaders. Those I know who read ebooks, on the other hand, without exception still purchase and read paper books. And they always will.

I was pleased this week to learn that the brilliant marketing folks at Google agree with me.

On Monday, I got mail (the paper kind) from Google, which was a first, and as I stared at the unopened envelope, I figured it must be some kind of weird partner marketing thing. To assuage my curiosity, I opened the envelope. And found (drum roll, please) bookmarks!

Real, live, actual bookmarks.

Now, I don’t use bookmarks—I’m a page-corner-turn-downer—but that doesn’t change the fact that this was the single most brilliant piece of direct marketing I’ve seen in years. See, I’ve bought ebooks from Google’s store. So they know I read ebooks. And they obviously are smart enough to agree with me that people who read ebooks also read paper books. They want to remind me they’re selling ebooks, and what better way than bookmarks.

The bookmarks themselves are not overly branded, but are the strong primary colors I subconsciously associate with Google. Didn’t even realize I had this association until I saw them. They have clever, clear and concise marketing messages, and no more branding than they need. If their goal was also to generate word-of-mouth, they succeeded. I’ve had several conversations on Twitter about The Bookmarks.

Well played, Google. You should listen to me more often.