This piece was written as an assignment for my Publishing class, and was published on the Champlain College Publishing Initiative’s website in March 2011.
Multiple Disappointments and a Cheeky Penguin
I started this assignment by looking up my favorite author and comedian, Craig Ferguson, on Google. The HarperCollins Publishers website had a link to a small author bio which had a small, dull link to Ferguson’s book, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot, which is published by HarperCollins’ imprint, It Books. The HarperCollins website, http://www.harpercollins.com/, was boring and lackluster. The page for Ferguson’s book had a dull black font on white background and had a short book description that didn’t do much to get me excited about reading the book, even though I have already read it and love it.
Under the book description was a heading for author extras, which I was excited about until I saw that the only thing it contained was the author bio that I had already read because it contained the link that brought me to the page I was already on. After a few critics’ praise quotes under the “extras” was a “new books similar to this one” feature that I found interesting and exciting, except it fell flat when there were no pictures of the books covers, but rather, basic icons of something I couldn’t even put a name to, and several typos and strange characters in the book descriptions. It made me less enthusiastic about checking out these books.
On the side bar of the web page were advertisements that were brighter and more attractive than what I was actually looking at, although they weren’t very interesting (HarperCollins e-mail list, etc.). What really surprised me was at the top of the page, next to a very small picture of the book cover, there were links to retail websites to buy the book (amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, and indiebound.com). I couldn’t believe that there was no way to buy the book directly from the publisher. One feature I did like was, under the cover picture, was a “read now” link that allowed me to look inside the book and actually read it. However, those pesky retail website links still lingered on the side bar. Overall, I was very disappointed with the HarperCollins Publishers website.
I then Google searched another one of my favorite authors, R.T. Kendall, and found an author website, http://www.rtkendallministries.com. I was excited to find an author website, but I ended up being even more disappointed with this site than with HarperCollins. The homepage was plain white with a simple black title and a small verse from the Bible beneath it. The one picture on the page didn’t even load. There were two links below that to R.T. Kendall’s books and audio resources, and then more links on the left side bar with links to his books and all his audio resources…just like the other links. There was no information about R.T. Kendall or any of the work he does within or outside of his writing.
You could quickly and easily buy books, mp3s, and CD’s from this website, but the products are just listed in a boring black font on white background fashion with pictures of the book cover. When I clicked on the book title, it took me to yet another boring page that just had a description of the book and an “add to basket” option. There wasn’t even a book cover image on the description page. I had no desire to buy books from that site at all. R.T. Kendall needs to ask God to help him with his website!
After two disappointments, I decided to go another route and just look up a publisher’s website. I chose the Penguin Group because I thought even if the website sucked, at least I’d be entertained by that cute little penguin eye-balling me and persuading me to buy his books, that cheeky little bastard. Anyway, I was very impressed with their website, http://us.penguingroup.com/.
It was not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also was easy to use and had tons of fun little things on it—a video interview with an author, an author highlight, a Penguin Classics section, a children’s section, and links to eBooks and news articles about the publishing company.
I clicked on the author’s tab at the top of the page and, even though it was a little difficult to navigate through the alphabetical list, there were awesome links on the left side bar, including an “on tour” link, where you could find out which authors were on tour and even search by location to find which ones were near you.
I decided to browse the “Award-winning Authors” section and clicked on the first one, the 2009 Newbery Honor winner Ingrid Law, for her book Savvy. Again, I was very impressed. The page had a picture of the book cover and the basic info of the book (dimensions, number of pages, etc.), an add to cart button, additional formats (eBooks, etc.) which you could also purchase, and the book description. There was also a really cool feature where you could buy the book for your book club (or what have you) and get a discount for purchasing 5 or more copies. I thought that was a very unique feature and I had never seen anything like it before. There were also links on the left side bar offering an author bio, a read excerpts feature, a book group guide, and awards the book has won. Awesome website—the penguin gets an A+ for the day.