Borders Launches A Website With A "Magic Shelf"

Borders has finally decided to launch its own website (previously, its online business had been handled by CEO George Jones says:

“By creatively combining the assets of our new online channel with the many advantages of our stores and vice versa, we’re giving customers an elevated experience that we believe they’ll find more satisfying than anything else in bookselling today,” said Borders CEO George Jones.

The attempts to mimic the experience of shopping in a “real” bookstore with “Magic Shelf.” New releases and other popular titles are placed cover out on a “shelf.” Shoppers can browse left tor right, up and down, or by category. Borders says:

“We wanted a real bookstore online,” said Kevin Ertell, senior vice president for e-business at Borders, in an interview with the Free Press last week. “What we did to capture that bookstore feel was putting the Magic Shelf on the sign-in page.”

Does it actually mimic the bookstore experience? Eh, maybe if you shop at a bookstore that carries 12 titles per shelf. What do you think?


Borders starts online chapter [Detroit Free Press]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tightlines says:

    Wow, is there a section where I can buy an origami kit for $9.99?

  2. ophmarketing says:

    Wow. Starting an online bookstore. In 2008. Way to innovate, guys.

  3. elisa says:

    so THAT’S why the 20% off coupons were down for a week!

    (I use those coupons whenever I want to buy a book that isn’t sold at Target etc. Usually 20%, occasionally more (or less). And no, you don’t need Rewards:

  4. big-mike says:

    um…yeah, the only thing magic about that magic shelf is its ability to make me disappear from the site.

  5. Lambasted says:

    If their online prices are anything like their in-store prices, I’ll be sticking with Amazon. I’ve found Amazon prices to be about 1/3 of the prices at Borders and Barnes & Noble. I like to browse in bookstores but when I find a book I want to read, I buy it from Amazon–and usually from a 3rd party seller who really sells them dirt cheap.

    However, Borders and B&N do offer a great selection of discounted books. Hardbacks selling for as low as $5; now those are a great deal. I enjoy hunting in the discounted sections for something new and interesting to add to my library at home.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    I actually might like this way of shopping online. (But I like the b&m Borders, too.) I’m a browser, and it’s hard for many online merchants to simulate browsing, as much as they try to flag my interest with “readers who bought this book also bought…”

  7. weave says:

    Borders actually had their own online bookstore about 10 years ago. They dropped it to team up with Amazon around then. Why, I have no idea.

  8. Philthadelphian says:

    20%-off coupon code is: 159018660000000000

    It never expires.

  9. ratnerstar says:

    I love brick and mortar bookstores because I can browse through the shelves and find interesting titles that I previously didn’t know about. Of course, this browsing experience is much more rewarding at small bookstores with carefully selected inventory as opposed to huge retailers like B&N. So I doubt this will change my shopping habits much: small indies for browsing in person, Amazon or Powell’s for buying online.

    Nice idea, though.

  10. weave says:

    According to Wayback machine it looks like Borders teamed up with Amazon mid 2001. If you go back before that you can see they had their own site.

  11. I suppose its nice that business are finally getting with it on websites. I was on the gap/banana/old navy website this weekend and they had something similar.

  12. m.ravian says:

    i will miss the partnership…i worked for Borders for three years, and we were able to finagle all sorts of deals using return gift cards and the discounts on i got a Diane Arbus catalogue which retailed for $100 at the retrospective for $1 on using my Borders gift cards. sigh. i miss working at a bookstore.

  13. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @weave: They teamed up with Amazon because Amazon’s system was more efficient and The Big “A” were kicking every other online bookstore’s ass.

    The coupons were much better when they were separate entities though. Perhaps we’ll see a return to that competitive spirit.

  14. Rachael says:

    I love this idea. I always enjoy browsing at bookstores, so while you’re not seeing a ton of books at once you still get that sensation. Amazon’s front page usually has “targeted” stuff, which actually doesn’t always work well for me. Search Amazon for a cosmetic product and, even if you don’t buy it, you see stuff related to it for ages afterward if you don’t remember to tell amazon not to use it as a base for suggestions.

  15. moore850 says:

    Cool, except they definitely won’t let you read anything on the shelves like you can in the store.

  16. lemur says:

    A virtual bookshelf is not something that will attract me. In my universe, books are just data and should be accessible by the fastest and most direct means. When I go to Amazon, I usually know what I want. I aim directly for the search field to type the actual title and author name and ignore everything else.

    When I don’t quite know what I want, I’m quite happy with lists presented as lists rather than as bookshelves. Keep things simple and efficient and I’m a happy customer. Try to woo me with virtual this and that, and you’ll see me run in the opposite direction.

  17. theodicey says:

    Borders now has a used book marketplace, like Amazon. But it’s really just a front end for (the generally excellent), and it doesn’t seem to be very well integrated into the site.

    Also, their new site is slow. I’m not very enthusiastic about that.

  18. pattymc says:

    I used to spend many a lunch hour browsing at the bookstore but once Amazon came on the scene I started browsing there instead. I enjoy the reviews and find them very helpful in deciding what to read next (I read A LOT).

    I buy almost exclusively from resellers. I will bookmark something that sounds intriguing and wait for decent price to show up at a reseller. Lots and lots of books go for 1 cent plus the flat $3.99 SSH.

    Even a very good bookstore will have nothing even close to what is available on Amazon. I used to subscribe to Pub-lisher’s Weekly and the NYT Book Review but even that info still left most purchases a crap shoot. When it comes to mysteries and scifi I find that sticking to something with 4 stars or more pretty much guarantees a good read.

    I really don’t want my online experience to mimic a B&M experience and I especially loathe Flash. I don’t want my potential purchase to be ‘presented’ as if it was some kind of precious work of art. I don’t want it to gradually emerge on the screen. I don’t want it to be animated in any way whatsoever. Show me a good picture, the cost, any available discounts, as much info about it as I could conceivably find pertinent and what other purchasers have said about it. And if I feel like exploring I want the site to foster that mode as well. Amazon does all of this well.

  19. chrisjames says:

    So will the popular titles and hard cover books be placed on the middle shelves, with the cheaper books on the upper and lower shelves just out of view?

  20. LucyInTheSky says:

    buying books online is no fun. nothing can replace the smell of fresh ink and new paper. the coffee smell mixed in like they have at Barnes and Noble doesn’t hurt either =)

  21. animeredith says:

    Nice try Borders, but I’m still going to do everything in my power to avoid paying the ridiculous full price for books. (20-40 bucks for a hardcover that I’ll finish in two days? Come on!)

    Thrift stores and Daedalus Books FTW!

  22. ClankBoomSteam says:

    Until I can sit down and read as much of a given book as I like (like I can in their brick-and-mortar stores) while I’m at their site, I don’t care how “magic” their shelves are. Sorry, Borders. Lame gimmick that might’ve been vaguely exciting in 1999, but not now.

  23. synergy says:

    On one hand, I’m glad they got their own domain now.

    On the other hand, this sounds lame, and memory and time consuming. How about just a listing and book cover pictures, like everyone else??