L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

07 September 2008 Blog Home : September 2008 : Permalink

PanMacmillan - Scroll Bars & eBabel

A brief respite from Palin blogging. It has been brought to my attention that PanMacmillan in the UK are offering eBooks. Even better they are offering eBooks without DRM apparently (I can't confirm this because I haven't made a purchase yet).

However I have a gripe or two. When you click on Browse you discover that someone hasn't thought the thing through. Firstly you get the same book in a number of different eBabel formats treated as separate versions, since most books are in Adobe, Mobipocket and Microsoft.lit formats this means the list of books is 2-3 times as long as it needs to be. Combined with this there seems to be no way to search for only (say) Mobipocket books.

Secondly some of the titles listed are priced at £0.00, which doesn't mean free as you might expect from previous experience with webscription.net, but actually means "forthcoming". Oh and on the pricing front there is the moronic trick of having different priced electrons see for example Ink, available in electrons at either £7.99 or £14.99:

Format Price Availability Publication Date
Hardback £17.99 In Stock 02/02/2007
eBook - Adobe eReader   eBooks FAQ £14.99 In Stock 01/05/2007
Paperback £7.99 In Stock 04/01/2008
eBook - Adobe Digital Edition   eBooks FAQ £7.99 In Stock 28/08/2008
eBook - MobiPocket   eBooks FAQ £7.99 In Stock 28/08/2008

Thirdly you can't browse more than 9 books on a page. Given the multiple e-editions this tends to mean you get 3 or 4 different titles per page. There are allegedly 243 e-editions. That makes 27 pages. To make it worse you can't jump more than 2 or 3 pages in advance and you can't do a reverse sort. So authors whose names begin with letters from the "arse end" of the alphabet and who stupidly chose book titles that are also at the arse end aren't going to get many casual browsers.

Fourthly the ebooks available is a major subset of the total books available. And the way the site is laid out "ebooks" are treated as a category like "Fiction" of "SF & Fantansy". This is not helpful.

I don't want to be too discouraging to PanMacmillan since they are kind of doing things right but perhaps a little bit of thought on the webdesign front would help? and because I'd like to be positive here are some suggestions: