Wednesday, October 5, 2011

QR Codes

You've seen them everywhere, in the supermarket, on the menu of your favorite restaurant, on posters in schools. They are the the square mash-up of lines and boxes that look like someone sneezed pixels. What are they? They are QR codes. Smart phone users, by which I mean your kids and grandkids, scan these things with the camera on their phones, which takes them directly to a website.

At this point you might be yawning and saying, "so what?" So what? Did you read the previous paragraph? The key words are "smart phone users" and "kids and grandkids." This is the demographic for whom tech is cool, who have disposable income. These are readers you want to reach. Say you're doing a booksigning. A few people stop, those that like the old dead tree products, but a lot of folks just whiz on by. A few might drop the word that they only read ebooks and you say, "I've got an ebook. Go to aitch tee tee pee colon slash slash dubya dubya dubya dot whatever dot com slash mywebpage slash mybooktitle." You better shout it because they are already gone. Another potential sale lost.

So how do you capture that ebook impulse buyer? You need a QR code. Put it on a poster next to your table or on your bookmarks or your postcards. Your young customer pulls out a smart phone. (It's a Pavlovian reflex whenever a QR code shows up in a young person's world.) Quick click and they are at your website buying your book. The phone will need a QR reader, of course, but that is a free app from the android or Apple store. Ask your grandkids if their phones have QR readers and they'll look at you like you've just asked them do they like Captain Crunch (which they're eating, while watching the video they scanned off the box.)

Have a smart phone with a QR reader? Try it now to get a free short story, Drop Dead Zone. Scanning the code will take you to a website with details about the story and how to purchase it. When you go to check out, enter the following coupon code: SW68X  (not case sensitive). No smart phone? No problem. Go to

Creating a QR code is easy.
  • 1. Go to Google and type "url shortener" into the search window. Or go here:
  • 2. Paste your long URL into the box that appears and click the "shorten" button. Your long URL will appear, followed by a short URL and, on the right, an active link labeled "Details." 
  • 3. Click "Details." Voila!. Your QR code is generated. 
  • 4. You can right click on it (PC) or control click (Mac) to open it in a separate window or download it. I like to open it in a new window because I want to do one more thing to it. 
  • 5. After opening in the new window, notice that the URL looks something like this:  I have highlighted the 100x100 because that governs the size of the code block. Change that to something like 400x400 (500x500 is max.) This will make it bigger. 
  • 6. Now download it or capture it with a screen capture and paste it into your book display ad or bookmark or whatever. That's all it is.

You will also want to use the shortened URL on your ads. I prefer the URLs from to Google's because I can add a meaningful tag to it, whereas Google just puts in a bunch of random characters. But that's just my preference.

The idea for using QR codes this way came from a discussion with my daughter-in-law. The middle school she teaches at has a policy of allowing any and all technology on campus. So teachers put these codes all over the school and in their lessons for kids to find school notices, supplementary material, and just interesting stuff. That's the way young people are learning now. If you want to reach that demographic with your stories, get on board with the technology.

If you've read this far, you're hip to technology and anxious to do more QR scanning, so here's another one for you. For a limited time, you can get an ebook of Pilikia Is My Business at half price. Scan this code and enter CZ43W at check out. You can also go to

Mark Troy
Hawaiian-Eye Blog


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Oh, my goodness, something else for me to figure out? Eeek! This old brain can't take much more.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great post, Troy! I've been hearing about QRs and didn't know how they worked. I'm handing you off to my husband, who's the family electronics tech.

Mark Troy said...

Marilyn and Jean,
Sometimes I think we're swimming against a hurricane. The fact that I'm posting on this probably means the tech is out of date.


Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for the information, Troy. I was planning on figuring QR Codes out. You've made it easier for me.
Morgan Mandel

J. Allen Fielder said...

I've recently been asked to create a QR code for a company. In researching them, I discovered that they have a 30% tolerance for error, meaning, you can do all kinds of fun things with QR codes that you just can't do with regular barcodes. The savvy designer or author will look for ways to incorporate their brand into their QR code.

Check out some of these sites:

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I need to have my young people find some different young people to know.

This is another one of these deals where supposedly all sorts of young people are doing it and mine say this is old hat and nobody does this now.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Mark, great info. Thanks.

Ana Maria Rodriguez said...

Your QR Codes post is hilarious, the beginning, I mean. I loved it (a Pavlov reflex? That's great!). The explanation is simple. I can do this. And thank you for the tip and extra websites, J. Allen.