Whenever I need to get a new book, I usually look for it online. In fact, I prefer online book stores to real ones unless I’ve got the whole evening on my hands and a friend to give me company, in which case, a real book store is like a night club where everyone is your friend, friends called books. But alas, who has the time. Look for it online, check the price, read the reviews, order. Done. That’s what I do, and I’m pretty sure most of you reading this take the same route.
However, in India, we don’t have a one-stop-shop like Amazon, where you can almost always get good deals and where probably everything you need is available except nasty things. Ha! Anyway, in here in India, we have a few, quite a few to say, online book stores. A few of these online book stores are excellent. They have a large library of books available, prices are good too. Some others, have great deals, but have horrible website navigation and user interface, which not only makes it difficult to find the book you want, but also takes a lot of time. Everyone I know of who buys books online, does this: Search for the book in one store, find it, see the price; open new tab, search for book in another store, find it, see the price and it goes on until they find a good deal.
However, the fallible state of some book stores make our job difficult. Why not one search engine that searches all of the, if not the most popular stores at once?
Animesh Jain calls the development of IndiaBookStore a work in progressbut I already see some shine in it. Here are the features of IndiaBookStore.net that he has highlighted on his blog:
- Speed the results should come up atleast as fast as searching on the book vendors site directly. No slower. They’ll mostly come up faster.
- Concurrency - results from all vendors should arrive concurrently, not serially. If a vendor’s site is running slow, then it should not affect any other results. The search engine will handle failures gracefully.
- Relevance - the best results should be at the top. This is a little tricky because of the way I am implementing things and also depends on how good the relevance is at the vendors’ end.
- UI and user experience A minimalist UI to focus on the search results and no unnecessary elements/clutter.
- Scalability - scalability is needed in a couple of ways. One, on handling the traffic, and two, on the UI end, so that I can add about 10 or so book vendors.
Currently, IndiaBookStore supports 4 popular online book stores: Flipkart, Infibeam, Pustak and Indiaplaza.
The books are sorted by relevance and ISBN, and the best deals are marked. From what I noticed, the site marked the best deals for both paperback and hardcover versions of the book. Personally, I’d love to see IndiaBookStore grow. I’ve had enough of the hard time figuring out different prices, discounts, user interfaces and comparing them and I’m very sure the average smart shopper has had it too. Since the service is still in development, I’ll reserve my critical judgement. Let’s see what the developer comes up with.