Barnes and Making Progress

I know, I know, Amazon is where everyone goes to buy books, videos, even snow blowers. But for the pure book person, like me, Barnes and Noble is still the preferred destination. Clearly Amazon’s site has been ahead for years, but the in store experience is not available to Amazon customers. I don’t care what you say, nothing can trump holding a book in your hand or browsing a well organized store. The web site does a lot of things very well. Here’s a couple.

The Look Inside feature popularized by Amazon has always been problematic for me. The interface refreshed your browser and it was difficult to get back to the product page without repeatedly hitting your back button. They have recently provided a fix for that, but it’s emblematic of online pure plays, that they go out quickly with features then update. That’s a fine approach, but you can’t take a year to fix the usability problems.

Barnes and Noble See Inside feature was implemented properly from the start. It opens a new browser window and has the same look and feel of the site. A scroll bar at the bottom makes it easy to navigate to new pages, or you can select from a link stack on the left hand side. It preserves the book turning motif, which I would expect from real booksellers and appreciate. When you want to return to the product page, simply close the window.

Barnes & Noble's Online See Inside Feature

A feature that has that Amazon can’t is the pick-up in store option. When you find your item simply type in your zip code and a list of stores is returned showing availability. You can reserve it right there and an email is sent to you confirming that it’s on hold. The screen shows a photo of the that particular location storefront, a nice touch and an additional clue that you have reserved it at the right property.

Store Pick-up Screen for

They made one small misstep on this screen. The text says “We can place a copy of this book on hold…” I reserved a CD, not a book. Either dynamically populate the proper product category or change book to item. It’s a small detail, but hey, they are after quality. At any rate, they are doing a nice job of integrating the store and online experiences. As a book guy, I hope Barnes and Noble can weather the current economic environment and sharpen their online skills so they can continue to compete with Amazon.

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