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Software Catalogs?

Joel mentions that he's writing a column for a software catalog. Who looks at printed software catalogs these days? When I want software, I usually know exactly what I want, and if I don't, I can easily do research online. I can then search for the lowest price online, or just drive 5 minutes to CompUSA and buy it.

I think the last time I ever found a printed software catalog useful was when it came from Beagle Brothers, and there was no web.

d00dmaster
Thursday, December 26, 2002

I agree with you wholeheartedly.  Printed software catalogs are a waste of natural resources.

There is absolutely no need to have a little booklet with pretty pictures of software boxes and write-ups. The same information is presentable via the Web, with the added benefit of actually being able to find what you want without flipping through pages of stuff you don't care about!

Dave
Thursday, December 26, 2002

The only time I find them useful is when I'm in the can or on an airplane, etc.

GiorgioG
Thursday, December 26, 2002

Yep, I read them just to see what's out there. Most catalog websites suck and push you to the top sellers. The catalogs at least have those nice lists in them showing everything they sell. I've discovered a couple really nice products that way.

Troy King
Thursday, December 26, 2002

That's why the catalogs are starting to have more
"editorial" content -- things that make them worth reading on the can. Thus the new outlet for Joel on Software.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, December 26, 2002

The best thing for the can is an iBook with 802.11.

Mister
Friday, December 27, 2002

I remember back when most software catalogs had some articles (this was back in the late 80's, early 90's). I assume it was so you'd actually read the catalog and hang on to it for longer. The articles eventually seemed to go away and the catalogs became just a listing of software for sale.

I still have, in one of my many article piles, an article from a catalog about starting your own consulting company. It included advice on naming (i.e. 'never name it after yourself or family'), getting an accountant, etc.

jeff
Friday, December 27, 2002

I never read software catalogs before, but I subscribed just for Joel articles.  I feel a little guilty since I wouldn't be able to afford 99.999% of the software there.  Neverthless, I want to see what Joel writes.

Diego
Saturday, December 28, 2002

I like catalogs and use them frequently since I find online ordering to be an unpleasant experience that often proves non-functional after a considerable time investment in frustrated clicking and dead-end searches.

Paper catalogs work.

X. J. Scott
Monday, December 30, 2002

I have a few minutes so I thought I'd go into more detail.

* Paper catalogs don't cost me anything. They come free in the mail.

* Paper catalogs can be recycled. When done with them, I can burn them in my wood stove if they are glossy, or compost them if more biodegradable. Back in the old days when I still had an outdoor toilet, I could even use them as toilet paper.

* Finding what I want is easy. Just flip through until I see what I want. Don't have to guess at keywords or spelling. Don't have to enable javascript to use search facilities.

* Easy to read on the toilet or in the bathtub.

* Can read on the train without needing an extra big battery pack.

* Requires no external power source.

* Requires no hardware investment, not even a phone since I can use a pay phone to place a 1-800 call.

* Don't have to install flash.

* Don't need version 5.5 of MSIE to make it look right nor do I need to upgrade my hardware to upgrade my OS to upgrade to MSIE 5.5 to view the catalog.

* Don't need to turn on Javascript, downloadable plugins or Java.

* Don't need 256 MB of Ram and 1GHz or better processor to view.

* Don't need to wait for anything to bootup.

* Don't have to look at ads for stuff I am not interested in to be allowed to look at what I am interested in.

* Don't have to give my phone number or email address to be allowed to look at prices.

* I know exactly how much shipping will cost.

* Catalog doesn't crash or freeze due to skanky javascript.

* Catalog is formatted correctly in accordance with widely accepted standards.

* Human beings at 1-800 number will competitively price match the best deal I can find, and then throw in free shipping and upgrade me to the next better product at no additional change. (Just try doing that through a web interface.)

--

Get the picture? Yeah, i know people point to amazon as a wonderful shopping experience. maybe it is for geeks but if amazon's interface is the best anyone can do then catalogs and brick stores will continue to dominate sales. Most of the on line sales sites that have been set up are extremely lame an unsatisfying compared to a real store. I'm not surprised they fail to make a profit because they don't deserve to. Customer service is lame, shopping is painful, and products are overpriced.

Good riddence I say to all lame e-commerce companies. Long live bricks and mortar and paper catalogs!

X. J. Scott
Monday, December 30, 2002

You given a good list of the advantages of paper magazines and books over the online ones. I often print out stuff I have on the computer because reading the paper version is so much easier.

But I normally junk the paper afterwards.

Computers win hands down for storage - I just spent more money on a bookcase than I would have done for an 80GB hard drive - and for retrievability.

I fail to agree with your attack on Amazon though. Online shopping isn't meant to be the same as a real store; that's why it doesn't really work for clothes (and heaven knows why Amazon have decided to shed all sense of the ridiculous and sell them on site with the classic line - "people who shop for clothes also bought clean underwear!") but books are the perfect commodity item, fit through the letterbox so there is no problem with delivery, and require a centalized store for real choice.

The real question of course is why is it so expensive and such a pain to buy computers online?

sceptick
Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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