What's wrong with this picture? First, you could argue I shouldn't be browsing in my local bookstore if my intent is to buy online. That's an issue the brick-and-mortar stores need to figure out. And when they solve that problem, I hope it's by embracing the online world, not asking everyone to leave their iPhones at the door!
Actually, what's wrong here is the fact that I have to go through so many steps to get an ebook sample. Why don't the major bookstores have apps that let me take a picture, and with that one simple click, push the ebook's sample to my device? Sampling is one of the key steps I take along the way to making an ebook purchase. I've probably got a couple dozen ebook samples in my Kindle and iBooks apps on my iPad; I have yet to buy an ebook without sampling it first.
So here's a chance for any book retailer with a mobile app to dramatically extend their reach. I might be shopping in Retailer A's store but I might be more loyal to Retailer B, so I use B's app for this one-click sampling. Keep in mind the sampling decision doesn't have to be made in a bookstore though. You might be sitting next to someone on the subway and they're reading an interesting looking book; if you're brave enough(!), snap a picture of it and know the sample will be waiting for you. Or maybe you're at a friend's house and see a book on their coffee table. They rave about it, so you take a quick picture and voila, the sample is heading your way.
At least 2 of the major players already have mobile apps with camera functionality built in, but it's not for what I'm describing. These camera features are all about physical products, not ebooks, and definitely not ebook samples. When will one of them take the next step and integrate a one-click ebook sampling feature like I'm describing?
P.S. -- They don't have to do this right away, but at some point I also hope the retailers build a social component into this. I'd like to identify my friends and family members who also use the app and ask them to opt in so that I can see what products recently caught their eye as well. Sure, you can see some of this via other networks like Facebook, but I'd prefer a service that's dedicated exclusively to ebooks; there's too much other noise from broad social networks and I believe an ebook-centric one would be very popular.