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Browsing for eBooks – Why is it so much better in a real shop than online?

by Tony Cole of Ebookanoid

Recently I came across a short post in which the author bemoaned the rather unimaginative and unfriendly manner in which most eBook sellers displayed their wares.  He made the comparison to how enjoyable it is to browse happily around the shelves of a real book shop (especially the independent ones)  as opposed to how it is at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, for example.

He pointed out that when one wanders into a real bookshop, with a vague idea of what one is looking for, one almost always ended up buying some other book as well, in a sort of impulsive manner.

Whilst he made no suggestions about how online eBook sellers could achieve the same atmosphere on their sites, he made a plea for them to try and reproduce the happy chaos that is the hallmark of a truly enjoyable book shop.

This is something I have written about in other posts, and I tend to agree with  him Even in such sites as Books on Board or Kobo, who have attempted to do this, one is always offered a choice of the type of books one has asked for.   You select Thrillers, and you are offered a range of eBooks in that genre, but are highly unlikely to stumble across an interesting eBook on gardening or some other totally unrelated topic, which in a real book shop always happens, and I know one tends to then stagger out of real book shops with more books on differing subjects than you ever intended to do when you entered the shop – plays hell with the credit card, of course.

There has to be a way to replicate the happy mix of unrelated books one finds in a book shop, without making finding and selecting the type of book one set out to find originally too complex.

I know that they all offer a side bar with a list of all the genres one could wish for, but you have to plough through loads of windows and lists to browse in this manner, which very few of us are prepared to do.  This is a pity for both the buyer and the seller, as it inevitably means one buys only the book one set out to find, for the shop it means lost income, for us it means missing just that serendipitous find that is one of the main joys of real book shops.

Geographical restrictions too………..

A further irritation of online bookshops is the matter of geographical availability.   After hunting and finding the eBook one wants, we are all too often told (as we attempt to purchase it) that it isn’t available in our country.   Can you imagine a book shop having books on its shelves, which they then tell you that you are not allowed to buy as you live in the wrong part of town?  Whilst I understand the reason for this problem – writer’s agents make different deal with publishers in different countries – I still find it a real problem.  As far as I know, only Kobo have attempted to address this problem, by means of identifying the country you are in (by using your computers internet address – IP), and placing a note beside any eBooks that can’t be sold to you where you are.  This at least saves you wasted time in choosing a book and starting the check out business, but it remains a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the book sellers and publishers somehow.

If you have any brilliant ideas as to how online eBook sellers could address this problem, do let us know, as eBook buying should be as enjoyable as paper book buying, I feel.

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Bernadette in Australia November 30, 2010 um 10:53 pm

I don’t own a Kindle but one of the reasons I still go to Amazon’s online store, including their Kindle store, is for the "other people who viewed/bought this book you are looking at also bought/viewed these books…" – give me people with all their quirks over algorithms any day.

I’m not sure what else they can do in an online environment – unless someone is ready to create a virtual bookshop in which you can stroll through rows of shelves, peer into bargain bins, look at the off-genre end caps while browsing your favourite genre and generally behave in a similar way to how you would in a real-world store.

Zigwalski November 30, 2010 um 11:53 pm

I like browsing bookstores but mostly it gives me ideas of what to download. It is still a pleasant experience most of the time. I live in Northern Virginia and all the big players are here within 10 miles of my house.

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