We’re not entirely sure how we feel about Zoomii, the self-billed “real” online bookstore that seeks to reproduce the bookstore-browsing experience down to the smallest particulars. On the one hand, they’re to be commended on their interface, which is creative, fluid, and fun. We enjoyed “zooming” around searching for popular Abbeville titles, such as The Expectant Father (currently they display only the 25,000 top-selling books on Amazon, but eventually they hope to feature every book in Amazon’s database), and their “shelf” layout made browsing by genre easier than on any other site we’ve seen. On the other hand, their painstaking mimckry of the bookstore experience reminds us of the Times’s remark last year on e-reading devices:
“Numerous people have commented that if the paper book was [sic] invented today, it would be heralded as a technological breakthrough: light, portable, easy to share, no silly DRM problems, and it really isn’t that expensive given the value of entertainment a reader can wring out of it.”
By the same token, if the book-browsing experience had been confined for centuries to a small electronic screen, and someone had then come along and invented bookstores and libraries—vast cathedrals of handsomely-bound, tactile, often fragrant reading “devices”—that entrepreneur would be hailed as a genius. We understand that America is a spread-out place where it’s not always convenient, energy-efficient, etc. to travel to a bookstore or library; and we appreciate the sentiment behind what the Zoomii people are doing. Still, it kind of makes us fear the day some online chocolate store tries to convince us that they’ve created an experience almost as “real” as walking into Max Brenner.