Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Borders launches new ecommerce site

Borders has launched a new ecommerce site. Previously, the book chain had a partnership with Amazon.

According to the Detroit Free Press, one feature the retailer is touting is the Magic Shelf.

In a nutshell, the “magic shelf” is meant to mimic the experience of browsing in a bookstore. A graphic on the homepage shows illustrations of books on bookshelf. When you place the mouse over the book cover, a popup shows the author and other information.

"We wanted a real bookstore online," said Kevin Ertell, senior vice president for e-business at Borders, in an interview with the Free Press last week. "What we did to capture that bookstore feel was putting the Magic Shelf on the sign-in page."

Customers can also browse the site in the brick and mortar stores and rewards members can use coupons on the site.

It’s a little too early for me to render an opinion on the new format. I feel like I need to get under the covers a bit. Amazon has the edge right now in terms of usability, but I don’t know if some of that is because I have more a history with ordering and browsing. I do like that they’re trying to mimic the experience of browsing in a book store, which is one of my favorite things about going into a bookstore, poking around, picking up some titles just because they have a cool cover. A good browsing experience can be like a really fun scavenger hunt.

I will say that I’m not too crazy about the interface. Having little “pop up” blurbs about books seems a little cumbersome and they seemed slow to pop up. I do like that when you’re looking at a book, there are recommendations for further reading.

I think Borders is facing a tough, up hill battle to beat/ come in even with its former partner. Amazon seems like they can under price everyone else. For instance, while Borders is selling Twilight for $7.69, Amazon has it for $6.04. (Wal-Mart of course has the lowest price, selling it for $5.77.) The suggested retail price is $10.99 leaving me to wonder how small, independent stores can possibly compete. Sigh.

Reactions to the site were mixed on the Consumerist from:

A traditionalist:

buying books online is no fun. nothing can replace the smell of fresh ink and new paper. the coffee smell mixed in like they have at Barnes and Noble doesn't hurt either =)

A possible fan:

I actually might like this way of shopping online. (But I like the b&m Borders, too.) I'm a browser, and it's hard for many online merchants to simulate browsing, as much as they try to flag my interest with "readers who bought this book also bought..."

To mocking/ unimpressed:

um...yeah, the only thing magic about that magic shelf is its ability to make me disappear from the site.

Wow. Starting an online bookstore. In 2008. Way to innovate, guys.

Borders launches e-commerce site today

Borders' Web-Based Plan to Save the Book

Borders Launches A Website With A "Magic Shelf"

(Image from the Consumerist)

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