Back in 1998 when I worked at an e-commerce startup, I spent a few months working on a project to try to rethink the online retail "browsing" experience. The idea was simple: the experience of browsing an online store was still inherently different than walking into a book or music store, where you would browse across many items on shelves and maybe discover a totally unexpected gem. That process doesn't seem to work as well online. We were unable to solve it a decade ago, but I'm always interested in ways that others try to solve the same problem. However, so far, no one has really been able to do something amazingly useful in the browsing department... and that includes the new Borders website. For years, Borders, the well-known bookstore chain, had handed over its entire online operations to Amazon.com. Basically, if you went to the Borders website, you just saw Amazon.com with a Borders logo. However, a little while ago, the company decided to end that deal and strike out on its own
The new site
has now launched with its main selling point apparently being a shelf-browsing interface using Flash
. Unfortunately, it seems that whoever built the website modeled it almost too much
like a real physical bookshelf. That is, it includes all of the inefficiencies of a real bookshelf, without adding in many benefits. It's a neat little gimmick, but unless it adds more functionality quickly, it's difficult to see this putting much of a dent into Amazon's efforts. Update
: In sort of, but not entirely, related news -- a judge has dismissed
an antitrust lawsuit filed against Borders and Amazon for working together. The court found that there was no evidence that the guy filing the suit ever paid more than marketprice for a book due to the two companies working together.