Amazon Windowshop: Serendipitous Browsing Online

Fiacre O’Duinn alerts us to a kind of interesting interface Amazon provides, which I hadn’t been aware of before: Amazon Windowshop.

Fiacre asks if this is what the library catalog should look like.

I wouldn’t want the WHOLE library catalog to look ONLY like that — but I think it could be VERY useful and interesting to provide a “serendipitous browsing” interface to the catalog (on top of a more traditional type-in-search-get-result list interface) that is along the lines of Amazon windowshop.

Try to replicate the experience of browsing the shelves, but online you get the benefit that you can arrange books in more than one dimension (as amazon windowshop does in two), re-arrange them in different orders (for instance LCC OR DDC OR something else entirely, don’t have to pick just one), and additionally be able to allow unified browsing of a corpus that may be in several different physical locations (including off-site storage) or may be currently checked out but maybe you want to include them in the ‘browse’ anyway.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to provide such an online serendipitous browse experience, like a physical shelf browse but taking advantage of the unique affordances offered by the online environment. And I definitely thought (cover) images were a necessary component — I had been thinking of iTunes coverflow as a model. Amazon Windowshop provides another VERY interesting model to try and steal the best parts of — whenever I or anyone else can find the time to try and work on it!  Too many cool projects, not enough time. (And replicating Amazon windowshop would take some fancy coding).

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