By Dick Jordan
A rainy Sunday morning is a perfect time to linger over the newspaper and catch up on reading magazines that have piled up. While leafing through the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler I saw some advertisements that had little boxes filled with colored triangles near the bottom-left corner of the page. An ad touting “Sunnylicious” Fort Lauderdale, Florida (which sounded like a better place to be at the moment than damp and dreary-skied Marin), urged me to “Get the free app” for smartphones and then use it to scan the little box. And so I did, ultimately being transported across the U.S. to “find my sunny” by playing a video clip on my iPhone.
The free app is Microsoft’s “Tag Reader” which runs on several mobile devices including Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry, Android, and J2ME phones. (The one I downloaded for my iPhone 3Gs came from the iTunes App Store).
The “tags” read by the Tag Reader are the little boxes with the triangles and can be put on Websites, inserted into ads in print publications, placed next to merchandise on store selves, and even applied as temporary body tattoos. Scanning the tag with your smartphone’s camera will connect you to a Website where you can learn more about the product, the place, or the service. Microsoft tags will undoubtedly prove to be great marketing tools.
While reading the January 31, 2011, issue of The New Yorker over lunch the same day, I found an ad for Sherri Wood Emmons’ Prayers & Lies, which fellow author Kris Radish describes as “[a] sweet, revealing tale of family, friendship, (and) long-held secrets.” But what is the real storyline, and who is Ms. Emmons?
The Microsoft Tag included in that ad answered those questions. To find out what I learned, download Microsoft Tag Reader to your smartphone, then try scanning the tag in the Prayers And Lies ad which I cut and pasted into this blog post from the magazine. Scanning the tag on your computer screen may be slightly more difficult than doing so with the one in the magazine ad itself but, with some patience and a steady hand, you should be able to get it to work.
Scanning the tag will take you to a Website with an image of the book's cover, a synopsis of the story, a link to download an audio excerpt from the book, "read more" links for both the book and author, and as promised, “more.” Clicking on the “Read More about Book” link lets the reader purchase the book on-line from the publisher at 30% off the usual list price. (You can click here to purchase the book on-line from Book Passage).
While composing this blog post, I pulled out the “Books” section of the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle and read a review of Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden that would have prompted me to pick up my iPhone and scan the accompanying Microsoft Tag if only the newspaper would have included it. A tag in the print version of the newspaper’s book review could work the same as the clickable “Buy this book on Amazon” hyperlink in the on-line review on the newspaper's Website, SFGate.com.
My crystal ball says that in the future we will see more “tags” in book advertisements, and probably on the back cover of paperbacks and dust jackets of hardbound books, because technology forecasters predict that, by the end of 2012, half of American cell phone owners will be using smartphones. And don’t be surprised if you soon begin to see these tags on bookmarks that authors hand out at book launch parties at Book Passage.
(Dick Jordan often writes about technology for the “Travel Tech” section of his blog, Tales Told From The Road. His last post to the Book(ed) Passage blog was “Could You Survive Paradise?”
When he isn’t traveling, you can usually find him hanging out with other members of Left Coast Writers at the Book Passage Corte Madera store on the evening of the first Monday of each month. He’ll be the one with the Microsoft Tag tattoo on his forehead; scan it with your smartphone to visit his blog.)