Unveils New Look, New Attitude

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This week, unveiled its newly redesigned hub site. The new site has been streamlined to make it easier for consumers to find their local independent bookstore's Web site and to provide clear information regarding the Book Sense program and promotions. "Now when consumers come through the hub site and want to find a book, they will automatically be redirected to an individual store site," said Len Vlahos, director. "We're trying to connect consumers with their local, independent store."

Vlahos noted that there were a number of reasons for the redesign. For one, the previous site's shopping process confused customers, in that sales through the hub site were actually assigned to individual stores. "By redesigning the site," he told BTW, "we could better market what is." Now, there is no longer a database and shopping cart on the hub site. Instead, the moment a consumer clicks on a link for information about a particular book, the Book Sense 76, or Book Sense bestsellers, they are asked to enter their zip code and are directed to the nearest independent store site.

Additionally, Vlahos acknowledged that the previous "design was getting stale." Moreover, there was a resource issue in that staff was spending time on content and technology that could be better spent on individual store sites. For that reason, the new design is more static and gives consumers not only easy access to their local bookstore, but a clear description of the program. The Users Council discussed the new design and philosophy at BookExpo America, Vlahos added, and it "met with immediate and unanimous approval."

Significantly, the hub site has information regarding the new Book Sense Gift Card Program that allows a consumer who has purchased a gift card, or who wishes to buy one, to find a participating independent bookstore. "This is another area where a gift card provides a huge benefit over paper," Vlahos said. "Even if the consumer is not in proximity to a participating Book Sense store, he or she can still use the card online." He added that this will allow booksellers to sell the cards with confidence, knowing that a consumer from anywhere in the country can redeem the card via the Internet.

In addition to information about the gift card program, the Book Sense 76, and Book Sense Bestsellers, the site will also highlight publisher promotions, such as the current Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Final Journey Sweepstakes. (For more information on this promotion, click here.)

Overall, Vlahos said, the new design should be beneficial to participating bookstores and he expects stores to see an increase in traffic. -- David Grogran