Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jellybooks Breaks All the eBook Store Rules

Nobody ever asks for less. There's not a store you can go to that helps you get rid of stuff you don't need. In all the history of the web, no feedback form has ever been filled with a request to remove a feature. Forget "web"- in all the history of software, no user has ever asked to have a working function removed.

The result is bloat.

Less isn't more. More is what people ask for. Less is porn. It's what people want but can't ask for out loud.

So Jellybooks, unveiled this morning, is an ebook store that delivers less. Gone are the faux wooden book shelves. Banished is the search box. Missing in action is the hierarchical category directory. Vanished are the lists of titles and authors. THEY EVEN FORGOT THE BUY LINKS!

All you see at Jellybooks is a bunch of book cover images. All you can do is click on them. When you click on them, you get only three choices with the book description, "sample", "share", and "deal". That's it.

When you click on "sample", you download the first few chapters of a book. It's not until you've figured out how to read the EPUB format files that you get a look at purchase links (Amazon and Waterstone's - Jellybooks is UK-based) and by then you're hooked. "Deals" is unexplained, which is an interesting choice as most consumers are uninterested in the mechanics of a marketplace and just want a ... deal.

If you think about it, all a real bookstore does is set a large number of books in front of you, hoping to tempt you to crack a book open and get hooked. Sure, the space has organization; there's a kid's section for leaving your 6-year-old while you scope out the more interesting stuff. But you look at the displays of new books organized by invisible publisher coops, and then you go to the discount rack to see if there are any... deals.

Presumably, Jellybooks employs large armies of elves who look at what you click on and rearrange the book selection accordingly. Perhaps they're the ones eating the jellies. I think the elves were asleep when I tried it. It's so difficult to get good elves these days. (At, we had to send the elves back, we're using Google instead.)

Jellybooks has plenty of rough edges for the dev and design team to work on, and I have no idea whether Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg will figure out how to make the whole thing work at scale. But at the very least, Rhomberg and his team have laid out some new ideas about how ebooks can be presented and sold on a website.

In other news, the much anticipated Bilbary is pretty much trying to be what you asked for.
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