Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fun With Widgets

Make no mistake about it: the last week of February 2007 will go down in the history books as the Week of the Dueling Widgets From Big Publishing Companies Who Are Catching On to That Whole Technology Thing*. Write it down. You heard it here first.

Hoping that their books will go viral, HarperCollins and Random House have designed widgets so you too can list your favorite books on your website. The widgets have searchable features, page scrolls and, of course, a link to buy the book. No word yet on plans to make the widgets smell like paper.

First out of the gate was HarperCollins. Over to the right in the "Fun With Widgets" toolbar is a widget for THE ALCHEMIST by Paul Coelho.

And from Random House, to the right is CONSIDER LILY by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt, the girls over at Good Girl Lit.

What do you think? Which publisher wins the first Battle of the Dueling Widgets From Big Publishing Companies Who Are Catching On to That Whole Technology Thing?

*I kid the Big Publishing Companies. They caught on to technology a long time ago. Why, just look at the printing press. Way ahead of its time.



Random House provides top-side functionality and faster response. On that basis, I'd give it a thumbs-up, while the HarperCollins widget only earns a sideways digit. It seems, too, that the RH widget is more eyecatching, but that might be the result of the vivid cover displayed. The size of their cover art is more friendly to the eye, too. There is something to be said for the convenience offered by both publishers.

L.C.McCabe said...

Between these two choices, I would say HarperCollins. If for no other reason than it took forever to lead the "Consider Lily" Widget.

I mean, it's still loading and I've got DSL.

I can't imagine how long it would take for someone still relegated by remote location or economics to depending on dial up.

Having lots of bells and whistles doesn't necessarily translate to being "a good thing" if there is a glacial downloading time which might cause someone to hit "close" on their window, aborting the entire process.

Yes, sometimes instant isn't fast enough for me.


Conduit said...

I don't think either of those does it quite so well as Amazon's Search Inside contraption. With Amazon's latest version you can jump straight to the first page of actual content, rather than having to step though reviews, copyright notices and acknowledgements. The Harper Collins yoke (a local Norn Iron term for device or machine - see, education AND opinion) was so slow to load I closed it before getting to the opening of the book. The Random House hoojamaflicky (no, I'm not making these terms up, honest) was better, but again, when clicking on the cover, you're presented with a blank page. How many people will assume it's broken rather than continuing to click to the next page?

In principle, though, it's a good idea. Just needs to be better executed to be effective, I reckon.


RH was faster for me and for conduit, but l.c.macabe seemed to get faster response from HC. Maybe there is a traffic influence that provides hills and valleys in both houses.

Christopher M. Park said...

Load speed aside, since they both loaded immediately for me...

I like the look of the actual widget is nicer with HarperCollins, but as a programmer I have to say that I think Random Houses's one is emperically more functional (though they should have left out the blank backsides of pages--that was really confusing).

The HarperCollins "Browse Inside" feature was really fuzzy unless you zoomed in, and when zoomed in you couldn't see the whole page. Also, it got caught in my popup blocker.

The Random House little mini browser was pretty useless, since the text was way too small to read, but when clicking into the full thing it was much nicer. It opened without getting popup-blocked (and yes, I tested this one first--it wasn't just because I had already allowed popups), and it also was completely legible at their default zoom. If it wasn't for the stupid blank pages all over the start of the book I'd say it was RH hands down (in a printed book it is fine, but as part of this reader it is just downright confusing).

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Michelle Moran said...

Random House wins hands down. Not just because they're my publisher ;] but because it opens on a pop-up that is quick to load and looks sleek. And wow, I didn't even know these were in the works. Thanks, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

I liked the Random House one. Sorry, I'd provide more, but my brain is fried after staring at my book for so long.

Dorothy said...

Random House hands down!

dan said...

The Random House one, hands down. The Harper Collins one empoys pop-ups, which any sane web user blocks, and opens up the close-up reader in a new tab/window. The RH one is fast, it's close-up pop-up is not blocked for whatever reason, and, to boot, it looks better. It's a book cover! It begs to be clicked on. The HC one just looks like an Amazon link.

I agree with some of the commenters above that the mini-browser is kinda pointless. But maybe there's a use for it I haven't thought of yet.

sylvia said...

I'm completely addicted to -- why would I settle for a single book when I can show people my entire bookshelf? :)

Bernita said...

They've moved to printing presses? - and I was just getting the hang of scrolls...

MLR said...

The Random House widget is more attractive to me, but actually doesn't enlarge to a legible size with my browser (Netscape 8.x). The blank pages confused me as well.

Thus, HarperCollins wins for being more functional. (And I'm thinking of purchasing The Alchemist now.)

jude calvert-toulmin said...

Wow, The Alchemist has got its own widget, cool. Paolo Coelho's site is my favourite author's site, actually.

As for widget design - I have a section of acknowledgments on my blog specifically for Blogger Beta Masters as I reckon that the hackosphere is where the coolest dudes on the planet hang out.

Much of my novel is set in cyberspace. One day soon you'll be able to get computerised books; you'll be able to roll your finger over a link on the page of the book to take you somewhere else, but nothing will ever replace the sensory experience of traditional paper pages with writing on them.

Great blog, Nathan :)

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