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?


Antioch Bookplate Designs

Bookplate Ink is fortunate to have inherited hundreds of bookplate designs that originated with the Antioch Company, originally the Antioch Bookplate Company. Many of these designs were out of print for years.

Originally, the Antioch Bookplate Company specialized in printing personalized bookplates for its customers, promising to keep the designs on file for future printing.


Design S200

As the company grew, they added designs, some handpicked by owner Earnest Morgan. An example is this Viennese “Scherenschnitte” design, S200.

Scherenschnitte is a papercutting art form which has been popular for many years. Arthur Morgan, president of Antioch College in the 1930s, brought this swan design home from a trip to Europe. His son, Earnest Morgan, a co-founder of the Antioch Bookplate Company, incorporated it as a bookplate.

As the company added new designs, older less popular bookplates were taken out of print. In the 1980s, Antioch expanded into the wholesale market, printing non-personalized bookplates to be sold in bookstores. At this time, Bookplate Ink took over the service of personalizing Antioch bookplates. Originally, we only printed the most popular designs. Over the years, however, it has become apparent that a wide range of the older designs have been important to people and we have made them available again.


Design E176

Many people who write Bookplate Ink have been using a particular Antioch design for years. One such person ordered design E176, a classic and popular design combining books on a shelf and a ship in the background. This design was created from a steel engraving originally done by Bank Gordon for the Etchcraft Company. It was introduced by the  Antioch Bookplate Company in the late 1950s. The customer ordering E176 wrote that that he had been using this bookplate since 1964 and is grateful we’re still printing it.

Another customer, ordering design B213, wrote,

Dear Karen,
I have been using this bookplate for decades, and was distraught when Antioch Bookplates Company vanished.  I’m very happy that you are continuing the tradition.  I will eagerly await my supply of your bookplates.

These types of notes make my day. It is so rewarding to know that we are providing a product that has been a part of peoples’ lives for so many years. And while people are thankful to receive their personalized bookplates, I’m thankful that I am able to carry on this wonderful tradition. I will be writing more about the history of Antioch bookplates in future blogs. You can also read more in the “About Us” section of our website,