I was very much impressed by Yoshiyuki Morioka, an amazing guy who opened a bookstore in Tokyo, where he sells one only book per week. In my view, this is the most extreme example of content curation: he selects one book out of hundred thousands and recommends it for seven long days.

If you take care of someone, you work hard to find something which can make her life better and you’re transparent about the reasons you are doing it. Speaking of books, you don’t know who’s going to get benefit out of a book you really care of, you just tell everybody why that book made your life better. This is curation.

If you want someone to buy books, you select some titles according to individual behaviours and show one single set of books to every single person. If you know it’s more likely a person will buy books in that selection, at a specific time, you provide her what she wants. This is customization.

Curation is about relations, customization is about individual tastes. Curation means that you’re important to me, customization means I’m interested not in you, but in what it’s relevant for me about what you do.

Customization and e-commerce are natural brothers, they live in the same family: the common final goal is to let you buy something. But curation and e-commerce don’t seem so close: curation wants you to feel in the right place at the right time. If you’re in a store, you’re gonna buy something because you’ve entered a comfort zone of trustable people, you like the place, you feel good. Curation based stores (physical and digital) are places where the experience comes before the commercial offer; whereas, to create a good experience you need an engaging interface and really good quality contents.

Customization has been proved to work very effectively in many e-commerce platforms. But can curation based e-commerce be really effective?

Two industries are likely doing better than others: fashion/lifestyle and travels. Here and here two of my present favorite out of many thousands. But what if you’re in the industry of selling contents?

Today, when you enter a bookstore, you probably need more than a place where you can just browse and buy books. You need a corner to read, free Wi-Fi and free reading, suggestions by the people you meet there about what you may find interesting and so on. In other words, you expect to get a good reading experience. Online, there is no difference.

The time for physical or digital places where you can just purchase (any kind of) contents is over. We are all so used to engage with (any kind of) contents that offering interactive and immersive experiences is now almost necessary for content providers. Frank Rose has explained this very well in his articles, speeches and books. If someone is selling me content, I want to get into it: let me have some experience inside the content before asking me to buy it. Maybe, the additional experience you’re offering me will become the content I’ll be willing to pay for.

TV series and movies are doing a lot in this direction. Effective interaction and immersion generate different kind of crowdsourced additional content, which can be both communication buzz and additional revenue streams.

So, if you want to sell contents online, it is necessary to offer some experience inside and around it. If you can provide an enjoyable experience, you can build a customer relationship based on curation.

Among all the experiences you can have with contents, reading is the hardest, the most difficult; it takes time, deeper attention; but when you get into it, you might get lost. Reading is one of the most absorbing and immersive expereinces. And if you enter a small room, where a guy is waiting for you, telling why he choses one single title thinking of you, well, this is an experience. Human interaction, human immersion, human curation.

But, as my friend Peter Brantley said, this can likely work just in Tokyo. Don’t try it elswhere.