Turning the Page

Much of the World Wide Web, despite the influx of fancier graphics and colours over the last couple of years, is still devoted to various sorts of text -- plain old words on a page, or in this case on your screen. Not surprisingly, then, many of the online shops available to 'Net users these days are online bookshops -- below we suggest a few worth browsing.

Fighting it out for the title of the Net's largest bookshop are the UK's Internet Bookshop and Books, in the US. The Internet Bookshop have a vast searchable database (though it is sometimes so busy that making a connection can be impossible) and many links to publishers, while also have an immense database and run a monitoring service for their customers; if you have registered your interest in books on castles, for instance, they'll be sure to tell you as soon as a new book on Scottish castellated architecture hits the streets. are especially popular with UK residents looking for books published recently in the US, although postage costs can be high; delivery is usually fairly swift, though, which can help to compensate.

Many of the UK's bigger chains of bookshops have their own site. Dillons have a large site devoted to their flagship store in Gower St., central London; the shop also has a group of Internet terminals available to rent for those who would rather visit the Internet from the shop than the shop from the Internet. Waterstones have a nice-looking site which contains special promotions and recommendations for new books to try, along with the Waterstones' Guide to Poetry Books. Blackwell's offer online ordering and booksearch through their huge catalogue, and a tour around their vast Oxford branch -- as ever, they're especially good for academic books, though their site design could do with a little more pizzazz. They do, however, include an online book exchange service, which allows users to advertise books they wish to sell or are looking to buy.

The low cost of having one's own Web site has also attracted many smaller or specialist publishers and shops online. Our own customer Church House Bookshop cater to the Christian book market, of course, and there are hundreds of others. For example, Pen and Sword cater to military history buffs, Wyvern are well-known for their business book selection, and specialist publisher Vernier Press deal with scientific and medical instrument history; one of their forthcoming attractions is a book about antique corkscrews!

Bookshops willing to deal with mail order are finding that the Net is a useful way of reaching customers from all round the world, without the expense associated with posting out catalogues -- many customers looking for specialist books have no easier way of purchasing. Smaller publishers who had difficulty distributing their books to bookshops abroad can take orders directly from customers and perhaps find new outlets in the process. And reaching one's specialist market has -- literally -- never been easier.

Internet Bookshop: Books:
Dillons (Gower St):
Church House:
Pen and Sword:
Vernier Press: