Simon & Schuster is adding QR codes to all its print books. Will readers bite?

Woman scanning QR code

Simon & Schuster is adding QR codes to the back jackets of all its hardcover and trade paperback titles starting this fall. The publisher hopes to use the the codes to build direct-to-consumer relationships, but will readers actually scan them?

Twenty-six percent of Simon & Schuster’s sales are now digital, and the QR codes are seen as a way to link digital and print. The codes “make it easy for consumers to visit our site and hopefully subscribe to one of our newsletters,” S&S chief digital officer Ellie Hirschhorn wrote in a recent email to employees. Scanning the QR code on a book “will bring the consumer to the author’s mobile page on S&S.com where they can sign up for an email, browse the author’s other books and watch video.” Jackets will also include a printed link to the author’s website “so consumers without smartphones or QR scanners could still easily find the author’s page.”

S&S says consumers can use any QR scanner to read the codes. The company will track the number of scans for each title.

Will readers actually scan the codes?

As my colleague Erica Ogg recently reported:

While QR codes are popular in places like Japan, they haven’t caught on in the U.S. yet. The ability to scan these codes is almost universal in smartphones thanks to apps and built-in scanners, but people are just not embracing them: Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that just 5 percent of Americans scanned a QR code last summer, even though the codes are popping up in 8 percent of print ads.

In the piece linked to above, Bloomberg Businessweek quotes a digital ad agency director who says, “Very few people want to visit your corporate website to begin with. Fewer want to do it when they’re out in the world or reading a magazine.” The article also says that fewer ad agencies are using QR codes these days since customers don’t seem to care about them.

Simon & Schuster’s QR code initiative probably isn’t expensive and it’s worth a try. But it remains to be seen whether readers really care about checking out an author page on a publisher website. And readers who try to scan the codes in bookstores will likely get frowns from booksellers who think they’re using a barcode scanner like Amazon’s price check app to find a cheaper price online.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / gualtiero boffi

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