A Renewed "Half Life"<br>Half.com Lives
Now that Half has been raised from the dead, we figured it was worth a look. Over the past two months we have been reviewing many of the bookselling sites. In September we looked at the largest sites, such as Amazon, Abe, Alibris and B&N. Last month we added a few smaller sites plus responded to some comments. For this most recent review, and a link to the first, see www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/aemonthly/article.asp?f=1&page=1&id=191
First, a few ground rules. We have approached the sites as a consumer. We recognize that most of our readers are sellers, but ultimately, the ability of a site to sell your books depends on how easy it is to use and how understandable it is to the consumer. Besides, being a consumer allows us to be critical, obnoxious, irrational, stupid and offensive, and still be right. In other words, we can be ourselves. Secondly, we are approaching the sites as a collector. That means a site, which may be ideal for someone looking for a "reading copy," particularly something that might be only five or ten years old, is not going to be an ideal site for our purposes. We are collectors, not readers. If we wanted to read, we would go to the library, or Barnes and Noble, read the book, put it back on the shelf, and leave.
We may have already stacked the deck against poor Half.com with that second condition, but first let's look at the site. When you type "www.half.com" into your browser, you are immediately redirected to "half.ebay.com." The logo says "half.com by ebay." There will be plenty of reminders of this connection along the way. One of the nice things for people interested in books is it is obvious that books are a major part of this site. I see books offered in the middle of the page, books and subcategories to the left, a books tab at the top of the page, and "bargain bins" of books to the right. All of this is visible without ever having to scroll down the page. At times, books can seem almost an afterthought at Amazon these days. At Half.com, they have a prominent role.
To get deeper into the category of books, I click one of the "Books" links, which takes me to a page with a group of new books they would like me to buy, a listing of many subcategories of "books" to try, a link to the bargain bin, and a search box with an "Advanced Search" link. They don't offer anything that clearly covers the type of books I want, but they do provide a link to "Antiquarian on eBay." A few clicks later I'm into the heart of antiquarian and collectible books on eBay, but that's for another day. Right now I want to see what Half.com has.
A click on the "Advanced Search" link brings me to a search page that is advanced in name only. All you can search is title and author, and limit results to hardcover, paperback or audiobook. None of the fields like date, publisher, printing location, which enable you to better target a search, are offered, nor is there an ability to search the description for keywords corresponding to your interests. Either you know the title and/or author or forget it. I'm disappointed.