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Every Book You Could Ever Want Is Available Online

Sandra Prior
Jun 7, 2008
Online book shops are the first big success story of Internet shopping. The mighty US online bookshop Amazon.com has transformed from a precocious start-up to a multi-million dollar operation within a couple of years and there has been no shortage of other companies out to emulate Amazon's selling success.

This means that bibliophile shoppers are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying books online. Virtually every book in print, is available on the Net and usually at a discount to boot. True, you can't browse the shelves and fondle the books' dust covers if you order online, but at least you can actually buy the book you want rather than trudging down to the high street and searching fruitlessly for your desired title, only to be told by some witless assistant that the book can be ordered but it'll take eight weeks to arrive. If you're lucky.

Little wonder, then, that online bookstores have become so popular. People in far-flung places can get the titles they want delivered straight to their door, book fans can order the new novel by their favorite author from overseas rather than waiting for it to be published in their own country. Most of all, the ordering online is quick, easy and can even save you a few bucks. Post usually costs a couple of dollars for the first book, and then decreases with each additional title ordered, so it makes sense to buy several books together. Because more titles are discounted to begin with, however, you still don't lose out on the price.

All Internet bookstores follow the same basic principle of being essentially a huge database of books. You search for the author, title or subject you are interested in and the site displays the matches it can find. Select a title and, if you like it, add the book to your shopping basket. You can then either browse for more titles or click through to the checkout. Simply confirm the books you've decided to buy, type in your credit card details so that once you've bought one book, it remembers your details automatically the next time you return, saving you the trouble of typing them in again.

What makes some Internet bookstores excel, while others just exhale wheezily, is the care they take in describing individual books to their customers. Let's face it, a database is a pretty soulless thing and if you're presented with just a book title, author name and ISBN number, like Kalahari.net, it's not exactly going to inspire you to buy the book, is it?

The best online bookstores understand this and so include reviews of titles by both periodicals and readers. You can post a review of the book yourself if you up to it and feeling creative. You'll often find a book which has been critically mauled by reader reviews and most bookshops, to their credit, don't doctor or sensor such opinions.

Some stores also feature interviews with authors, which is a great idea, but they vary widely in quality, ranging from mildly interesting to blatant promotion. The front page of most booksellers' sites will always highlight recent bestsellers or hotly tipped new literary hopes.

The other neat touch you'll see is the inclusion of a picture of the book's cover, because rightly or wrongly, people do indeed judge books by their covers. Of course, with literally hundreds of thousands of books in every online bookseller's catalogue, they can't be expected to supply reviews, features or pictures for every single title, but those stores which make the effort are surprisingly comprehensive.

Not all online booksellers are equal. But when an Internet bookseller has got its act together, it's a pleasure to peruse and purchase from its site.
About the Author
Sandra Prior runs her own websites at http://usacomputers.rr.nu and http://sacomputers.rr.nu.
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