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Opinion

Sometimes, It’s Good To Poke The Bear

Most of you have probably heard the expression, “Don’t poke the bear.” I think it’s pretty much similar to “let a sleeping dog lie” but it’s regarding a larger and potentially more deadly animal. The sentiment, I believe, is to leave a situation alone because the consequences are otherwise grim and nasty if you wake that dog or poke that bear. In this instance the bear, I believe, is paper catalogs but could also be aftermarket parts professionals who rely on and want nothing to do with abolishing them. If we consider that the bear is the paper catalog, it might just be time to at least nudge him and let him know he’s on his way out.

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In this instance the bear, I believe, is paper catalogs but could also be aftermarket parts professionals who rely on and want nothing to do with abolishing them. If we consider that the bear is the paper catalog, it might just be time to at least nudge him and let him know he’s on his way out.

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I’ve gotten countless letters to the editor regarding this issue since Jon Owens, the former publisher of this magazine, brought it to the forefront in a December 2007 column. His challenge was that manufacturers should print all the paper catalogs they want throughout 2008, but cease to do so at the start of 2009. This would leave counter professionals to rely on, for the most part, e-catalogs for future parts information. But they would still have all those old, beautiful paper versions to hold onto.

As you might guess, the idea of abolishing paper catalogs not been a popular goal or aspiration. In the numerous letters to the editor I’ve gotten, counter professionals have a real beef with e-cats and find that paper catalogs give them information they can’t find anywhere else. Some countermen and women have resorted to placing their paper catalogs on high shelves in conspicuous areas of their businesses in order to keep a watchful eye on their precious paper catalogs and ensure that no one walks off with them.

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Most who write me can’t imagine a life without paper. But in reading and listening to all the opinions about the issue, the crux of the matter isn’t that there’s something inherently great about paper itself, but the information derived from it. The common argument is that photographs and diagrams that accompany paper catalogs can’t be found in e-cats. Some wonder about what happens when the electricity’s out. How are they going to be able to sell auto parts? (One counter professional’s answer is that is the beauty of paper – it’s a better technology than, well, technology.)

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I’m sure there’s a level of comfort in paper because that’s just what’s been used for the last numerous decades. But overwhelmingly, the argument by most counter professionals centers around the fact that paper trumps electronic simply for the information it provides. It just so happens that the Web is trumping paper in many areas simply because it’s a better and more effective means of delivering the latest information. But it wasn’t always that way. There’s been a learning curve that has brought the Web to where it is now, for example.

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In many respects, an e-cat can be better than paper. Take for example a misprint. Once it’s in a catalog, how do you come to find out there’s an error regarding a part you’re trying to sell?

Most likely, it’s through a sale that doesn’t turn out correctly because the information was bad. With an e-cat, the information can be updated or corrected, most likely before you’d even know it was wrong. That’s the beauty (or potential, at least) of e-cats. Perhaps the information now isn’t as voluminous as a paper catalog. Maybe an e-cat you’ve used doesn’t have the diagrams or photos you’ve grown accustomed to. But it likely won’t be that way for long.

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