Tech vs. Trees: Euro to remain paper-based currency, newspapers fat with coupons not just for Black Friday, French law bans free shipping on book purchases

LOS ANGELES , January 16, 2014 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Trees: Euros to remain paper-based currency as other countries move to plastic

The U.K. may have decided to go plastic for its currency starting in 2016, but like the U.S., Europe is holding on to its cotton-paper euro banknotes and implementing new security measures to prevent counterfeiting, Reuters reported Jan. 13. Currently, more than 20 countries around the world have made the switch to polymer, starting with Australia in 1988. European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch said that the bank is studying the experiences of those countries that have gone plastic. In the meantime, the new euros will have a protective coating to keep the banknotes in circulation longer. While the 500-euro note is the highest value note of any currency—with some concerned that it could grow the black market—the 20- and 50-euro notes are actually preferred by counterfeiters, Reuters reported.

Trees: Newspapers fat with coupons not just for Black Friday

Getting a newspaper fat with coupons doesn’t just occur the day before Black Friday, as SmartSource is aiming to appeal to consumers with the New Year’s resolution of saving money. The company has delivered a record-breaking 136 pages of coupons on Jan. 5 via local newspapers or publications—for the second consecutive year. Even in an increasingly tech-savvy world, print coupons are still used by many shoppers, especially on Black Friday. About 67% of consumers said they look at newspaper inserts as part of their pre-shopping preparations, according to the Christmas & Holiday Shopping Forecast released by America’s Research Group and Inmar. “Newspaper inserts are convenient, transportable, visually informative, very useful for product and price comparisons and effective in creating excitement regarding a prospective purchase,” said John Ross, president of Inmar Analytics.

Trees: France considering law to ban free shipping for book purchases

France is aiming to level the playing field for its independent booksellers once again—this time with a law that prohibits online retailers such as Inc. from offering free shipping on top of a 5% discount off the publisher’s retail price, The Associated Press reported Jan. 9. France’s support for independent booksellers dates back to 1981 when prices were fixed for books, forcing retailers to sell titles at the same price, though they could offer up to a 5% discount, Techcrunch reported Jan. 10. That law continues today, and with the insurgence of online retailers, the 5% discount plus free shipping were seen by independent bookstores as unfair competition, Techcrunch reported. The new law, which was passed by the French Senate on Jan. 8, prohibits free shipping, but allow online retailers to offer 5% off the shipping fee.

Tech: Kindle vending machines appearing in airports and malls

The Kindle e-reader or tablet is not exactly an impulse buy, but Inc. may be setting its sights on changing that by rolling out Kindle vending machines—which have already appeared across selected airports and shopping malls over the holidays, GeekWire reported Jan. 9. Kindles have also been spotted in pop-up Amazon Kindle stores in various mall locations. While Amazon’s e-reader is available in some retailers, such as The Best Buy Co., they were pulled from stores like Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2012. Amazon has been speculated to build a brick-and-mortar store one day, but for now, the vending machine may just be the closest thing to an Amazon storefront.

Trees: Library vending machines popping up across the US

Speaking of vending machines (see story above), a handful of libraries across the country are trying out this technology usually reserved for snack foods for a new purpose: lending printed books to patrons at any time of the day. Dubbed the 24-hour machine, the vending library operates—yes, 24 hours—and can hold up to 400 books, music CDs and other items. Libraries in Milwaukee, San Diego and Norman, Oklahoma, are among those that have installed the machine made by EnvisionWare Inc. for their patrons’ use. In Fullerton, California, its library vending machine is not located at a library, but rather, at a train station for commuters, The Orange County Register reported Aug. 21. “It’s like a Redbox for books,” said Fullerton’s library director Maureen Gebelein, who added that the lending machine is an experiment in “trying to reach people where they are.”

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