Too many choices?

I read a marketing book recently that discussed the idea that when it comes to making a purchasing decision, too many choices can be so overwhelming that a potential customer won’t make any choice.

I found a New York Times article that discusses the same phenomenon. In “Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze,” Alina Tugend states, “Although it has long been the common wisdom in our country that there is no such thing as too many choices, as psychologists and economists study the issue, they are concluding that an overload of options may actually paralyze people or push them into decisions that are against their own best interest.”

Tugend goes on to discuss a study in California where customers were given samples of Wilkin & Sons jam. When given a greater assortment of jams to sample, more people were enticed to try some, but less actually made a purchase. Similarly, in choosing a 401(k) retirement plan, “studies have shown that if more fund options are offered, fewer people participate. And the highest participation rates are among those employees who are automatically enrolled in their company’s 401(k)’s unless they actively choose not to.”

What does this have to do with bookplates?? Bookplate Ink offers over 150 choices of bookplate designs, more than any other company we have found. We have ships, tomatoes, a rhinoceros, fairies, owls, flowers, musical instruments, a frog, boys, girls, maps, oh! and books. Perhaps the choices are overwhelming for our customers. This is a concern.

On the other hand, there is sometimes a design that doesn’t sell very well, but is perfect for one customer. Like the mustang horse, which was a wonderful bookplate for an elementary school whose mascot is a mustang. Or the now out-of-print Kermit the Frog bookplate for that Sesame Street lover. How about the biplane design for books donated from an aviation lover’s library?

Everytime I think we should take some designs off our website, one of these orders comes in. And the truth is, we have designs in our archives that aren’t even on the website. What’s your opinion? Is more better or is less easier? Should we streamline our offerings?

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Bookplates and real books for Christmas

This time of year is very busy at Bookplate Ink. We receive many, many orders for bookplates to be given as Christmas gifts. Amidst all the Christmas craziness, many customers take the time to write wonderful e-mails and comments in their orders. I’m convinced that bookplate owners are some of the sweetest people in the world.

Recently a customer named Auban placed an order for two sets of bookplates to be given as gifts at Christmas. In the comment section of the order form, she wrote, “For my mother and my daughter. My mom just found a book with a bookplate in it from her father, who passed away when she was 5. It meant so much to her. I wanted to allow her to share that with my girls.”

This is the type of comment that makes everything else worthwhile. When I picture Auban’s mother finding that bookplate from a father she lost at such a young age, it brings tears to my eyes.

I wrote to Auban that when I started printing bookplates, I had no idea that they would mean so much to so many people. Auban wrote back: “My younger sister passed away last year and I have found books of hers with the bookplates we got for Christmas one year. It has been such a tangible connection to family members we’ve lost recently and long ago.” More tears.

I know many Kindles and Nooks will be given as Christmas presents this year. But nothing beats the beauty and intimacy of a physical book (especially with a bookplate inside!) as a present. I was very encouraged to read an article in the New York Times this past Sunday saying that publishers are adding high quality and decorative touches to book covers and endpapers to encourage the pleasure of owning physical books as opposed to e-books. As I know from this business, there are still plenty of people reading and enjoying real books in their personal library.