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The View from Here

I spent last Thursday in a brave new world.

You might remember the Aldous Huxley novel, “Brave New World,” from a high school English class. It foresaw a future of people drugged into complacency with

technology running amuck. Original thoughts and real emotion are lost.

My little brave world wasn’t quite that bad – but there might be a few parallels.

Early in the morning, I was able to make a donation to Public Radio in Mississippi’s annual fall fund drive online. Around lunchtime, I clicked my iBook over to

papajohns.com and ordered an online special – large, three toppings. I opted for the new thin crust.

Almost immediately after clicking on “Order Now” for the pizza, I received two e-mails. One welcomed me to the wonderful world of Papa John’s online. The other

told me that my order had been successfully received, and my pizza would be delivered in 51 minutes.

Hmmm, I thought, almost an hour to wait for lunch. How great is technology, anyway? But, after all, it was just an experiment to see what happens – to see how my

local Papa John’s lived up to the corporate parent’s push into cyberspace.

So, I waited. I read a couple of other e-mails and checked out the Chicago Tribune site.

Twenty-four minutes into my noontime surfing, Pizza Man pulled up at the office. Not too bad. Thirty minutes or less. So much for that 51-minute message.

And, man, the thin crust works. Pretty tasty.

I know what you’re thinking, “Couldn’t he have just called PRM and made a donation. Couldn’t he have called and ordered a pizza? What’s the deal about online


You’re right. I could have called. You can always call, but isn’t having a choice nice, too? Another option. Another point of contact. It works for businesses when they

reach out and give customers every chance possible to buy their products and services.

That’s the power of technology, Web sites and e-commerce. Powerful tools for business, industry and economic development.

An Oct. 23rd article from The Industry Standard’s Web site (www.thestandard.com) looked at research from the NPD Group claiming that 57 million books were

sold online in 1999 – triple the amount sold online in 1998.

Several years ago, analysts predicted the death of small, locally-owned bookstores. Giant chains and online options would do in these community institutions, many


Not so, not so. Independent bookstores, while seeing closures, now seem stronger and more vibrant than ever, and the deep discounts, which lured many buyers to

the big chains and online, are gone.

And true readers never left the indies. In fact, most of the hard-core book buyers that I know have been mobilized by the threats to their local booksellers. They won’t

set foot into a Barnes & Noble or even think about a quick visit to Amazon.

I’m not quite that militant. I enjoy dropping by Barnes & Noble for a look at the great selection of magazines, and I’ve spent far too much time and money at

Amazon.com (I’ve done my part to push them toward profitability – to no avail). But, to be quite honest, for me nothing compares to browsing the stacks at Lemuria

in Jackson or Square Books in Oxford.

And thanks to the same technology that threatened independent bookstores a few years ago, it’s now possible to buy books from Jackson or Oxford even if you’re in

Shubuta or Ypsilanti. Makes no difference – go online and tell ‘em what you want to read at www.lemuriabooks.com or www.squarebooks.com.

And, therein, lies the beauty of my brave little world. Virtual everywhere with new tools for business and commerce, but I still have the luxury of hitting a greasy pizza

buffet for lunch or scanning the bookshelves and catching a buzz from that new book smell.

And, man, that’s all right.

Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is jlaird@msbusiness.com.


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