Alibris has officially launched it’s new movie and music marketplace. The cornerstone of this enhanced marketplace is the “powerful search experience” Alibris offers users. Now, let me preface the rest of my post by making it clear that I worked at Alibris for three years, leaving as Director of Marketing and Sales at the beginning of 2007.
It’s been a year now and I recently was forced to make a purchase through another online venue to ensure Commission Junction didn’t close my affiliate account. Though I wasn’t pleased at the threat of closure, it was interesting to revisit some of my old competition (Abebooks and Biblio) with a more objective eye. I decided I’d fill the gap in my Richard K. Morgan library and get Woken Furies.
The result was a confirmation that the Alibris search interface was superior. I’m not saying Alibris has the best inventory, or the best prices. But, in terms of finding what I want quickly and easily, they get top marks based on my experience. Let’s start by comparing author searches.
At Abebooks and Biblio all of the titles are lumped together into one laundry list sorted by price. So I have to search for the copies of Woken Furies amid all the other titles. At Alibris, each title is listed separately, allowing me to quickly find the best copy of Woken Furies. In terms of pure navigation and time savings (a big plus for me) the Alibris presentation wins by a wide margin on author searches.
But what if I was more specific and searched by title?
The gulf based on title search isn’t as wide. However, I like the synopsis at the top on the Alibris search. What’s disconcerting at Abebooks was the number of images that didn’t match the title. Images for Worlds by Joe Haldeman, Minority Report by Philip K. Dick, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan and Harlequin’s Dance by Tom Arden are all presented. My confidence that I’m going to get the right book at Abebooks, even if it is the right image, is definitely shaken.
Having been on the inside, I know some of the downsides. Alibris only uses stock photos, not those provided by a bookseller. Yet, that uniformity is actually comforting on non-collectible purchases. In addition, there’s a sort of black hole for books that aren’t entered in a certain way or don’t match the Alibris catalog. These items do exist but are not presented in the normal search navigation. Finally, advanced search and filtering options are satisfactory at best.
Yet, at the end of the day the basic search Alibris employs is, in my opinion, better. Will it help in searching for movies and music? Yes. Is expanding into the secondary market for movies and music a good strategy? No, I don’t think so. But that’s fodder for a whole other post.
What do you think? Which online bookseller has the best search?