Saturday, December 6, 2014

A 10 year lag on the internet economy?

One thing that is super noticeable here in Slovenia is that the internet economy is running on a significant lag.  Examples?  Ljubljana is packed with bookstores.  Here are a bunch of pictures of bookstores, all within a 10 minute walk of the law faculty.  There are Barnes and Nobles style new bookstores and Antikvariat stores (antique books) and everything between.  Some are super likable, like the "House of Dreaming Books:"
Some are lovely at night:
 Some are filled with the coolest old books:


Some are small Barnes and Nobles type places selling new books:

They even have cd shops and video stores!

To an American this seems crazy.  ALL of these businesses were crushed by Amazon, iTunes, or EBay years ago in the USA.  And yet here they are, all in close proximity to each other in downtown Ljubljana.  

I have no photo of one more piece of evidence.  In more than one gas station I have seen porn magazines stacked along with newspapers and Slovenian gossip magazines.  Physical pornography!  At one of the places I actually got out my phone to take a picture and was shooed out by a scandalized clerk.  I tried to explain that it was "for my blog," but unsurprisingly that did not help much.  But seriously, an actual real live magazine!  Another business model that the internet killed 5-10 years ago.

There are at least two possible explanations for this.  On the one hand maybe Slovenia is just on a short lag.  It is a small country with a hard language, so maybe internet entrepreneurs are taking their time getting here.  But time waits for no one, not even Slovenians.  

I gave a presentation to Slovenian lawyers, judges, and students about the internet and legal services and a Slovene student noted that Slovenian was a weird language and that Slovenia was a "different" country, and that people would never pay for a computer lawyer when they could have a real one.  I noted that right there in downtown Ljubljana at some point in the nineteenth century a group of tailors were sure that factory made clothes would never catch on in Slovenia.  Slovenian styles were different than German or French, and that Slovenian people were different and would always want tailored clothes.  This was a particularly American response I thought.

But maybe, just maybe, people here value things differently.  Take a look at this photo of fresh apples from the Market:
And here's the old man who sells them:
This guy has been selling apples in the market in Ljubljana for fifty years at least.  And his Dad did so before him.  I know there are Farmer's Markets in the US, but the market in Ljubljana is where regular people shop, not just fancy farm to table people.  It is a part of an uninterrupted history of small farmers selling directly to people, a history which ended in the USA in the 1960s and was only revived on a boutique basis recently.  Maybe this little piece of Europe is just more interested in hanging on to some things like fresh fruit and books and CDs and video stores.  

Or maybe the internet will swallow a bunch of this stuff eventually regardless.  I can tell you that a book from Amazon reads the same as a book from B. Dalton, while this guys apples crush American supermarket apples, so maybe only the best will survive.

4 comments:

  1. It's sad to see the local farm sellers, but it's also a matter of cars and mega malls with big Tesco (Billa Kaufland Lidl) retailers selling almost as good stuff at lower cost, but mostly worth it if you have a car to fill up multi bags.

    In Slovakia there are many new Panta Rhei book shops, but one can also buy on-line from them. Not yet as cheap as Amazon, but going to the shops is nice.

    Cars and the big malls will drive out the small local walk & carry shops, based on price and less time hassle for a big shopping rather than daily shopping. Once the little guys are gone, cost and convenience of the internet will lead to more on-line shopping.

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  2. see an end to the local farm sellers.

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