When I stumbled on the delightful Books2Barcodes site at Wonder Tonic, it renewed my interest in QR code. I’ve been seeing it around, but didn’t totally understand the purpose and, having only a sad old flip phone, I’d never tried it out. My awareness grew when a Lupe Fiasco QR code projected on a building I can see from my desk caused a bit of a stir here in Union Square, and now that there are books involved (for the first time I’ve noticed, anyway), it’s time to learn.
So I reached out to digital strategist (and friend of DGLM) Dan Scholz for some help understanding, since I’ve been hearing him talk about it for a while now. Here’s what he told me: QR (quick response) code is a two-dimensional barcode that’s primarily useful for dynamic and interactive event and promotions marketing. Essentially, QR code, invented in Japan several years ago, is a specialized barcode that camera-equipped smartphones can read using barcode reader apps. You see the code—on the side of a building, in a magazine, on the Books2Barcodes website, on a waffle—and then scan the code using your phone. That code links to something, often a website with some kind of pre-order or sales information. According to Dan, the audience for this has been very tech heavy for a while now, but started to reach a tipping point last fall. The market penetration has gotten much bigger, and 2011 should be a very big year for QR code marketing.
Not having a smartphone myself, I borrowed Stacey’s yesterday to try out Books2Barcodes. I didn’t have the greatest luck scanning off my computer, I think due to the glare on the screen, but I finally managed to scan the barcode in the page header—and lo and behold, text popped up: “Call me Ishmael.” I can’t imagine reading a book in 800-character fragments (which is apparently what the barcodes I couldn’t manage to scan would’ve provided), but I love the ingenuity, and the gimmick draws attention to a fun new opportunity for publishing.
So how can authors and publishers use it? The internet is full of free QR code generators, so I googled, picked one at random, and used QuikQR to create this one:
Smartphone users, why don’t you give it a shot? (And hey, while you’re there, why not click that little like button?) If you don’t already have a barcode scanner on your phone, there are a number of free ones to download, including RedLaser, the one I used to scan Moby Dick on Stacey’s.
So what do we think? Passing fad or technology of the future? Fun gimmick or serious marketing opportunity? Have you seen publishers and authors using QR codes? Any code generators or barcode scanners to recommend? And what do you see as the possibilities for book promotion here? Certainly there are some straightforward options, like directing people to Facebook, websites, pre-order links, and giveaways. But what about something more exciting? Dan mentioned that one of the greatest things about QR code marketing is that you can generate it for YouTube videos—when scanned, the smartphone’s YouTube app opens right up to the video in full screen with no extra clicks. I’m not totally sold on book trailers, but I can imagine it working in this context—it’d be a really fun way to expose people to them!