About two weeks ago I googled for info on “Saturday Voices” (Saterdagstemme) at “Die Boekehuis” in Johannesburg. “Saturday Voices” is a regular event at “Die Boekehuis” where well known (and not so well known) authors, poets, critics or academics launch and discuss their work.
To my surprise I found lots of info on past events but very little about upcoming events and no Boekehuis website. Why the surprise? Well “Die Boekehuis” is a very successful bookshop specialising in South African and World Literature. In 2006 they got listed by the International Booksellers Federation’s list of 50 unique bookshops in the world. Everyone in Johannesburg that I know, who has a real interest in books knows about them so they are successful.
I visited “Die Boekehuis” last week and asked: “Why don’t you have a web presence?” The answer was simple: “We don’t really have the time to properly maintain it.” They did however offer to put me on the announcement e-mail list for “Saturday Voices”. You can ask nicely for the same by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This made me think and ask the question: “Does a small, maybe niche business really need a presence on the world wide web to be successful?” Taking “Die Boekehuis” and my own small buisiness as examples, no, not really. I was also simply too busy to maintain anything but a single homepage for my business. My work came via “word of mouth” advertising from mostly happy customers. “Word of mouth” seems to work even better for “Die Boekehuis”.
When I started out as a small consulting business everyone told me, I must get onto the web. Being someone that actually sells and maintains computer systems I believed them. As I said above all this turned out to be wrong. In fact in 8 years I got one serious enquiry via the website, unfortunately the person was in the USA so I couldn’t help him.
No you don’t need the web to sell 4000 year old technology. It seems that you don’t even need the web to sell brand new technology.
Amazon.com probably disagrees.