Recently, I wanted to read an epic fantasy. I eventually found one (Nicole Lukien’s Gate to Kandrith), but I didn’t find it by browsing.

When I went to Amazon to browse for an epic fantasy, I was presented with a list of bestselling authors. As you guys know, I very rarely read bestselling authors. Some of us just don’t follow the popular crowd.

I decided to start looking around at other sites to see who had the best book browsing experience. I won’t get into the specifics of what I saw. What I want to talk about is what I want to see.

I want a shelf-browsing experience. Except at some experimental sites, I mostly saw lots of lists. Sometimes they were arranged in rows, which was nice. But the sort order was frustrating. Sometimes you could sort by price, sometimes by bestselling, sometimes by release date. But almost never could you sort alphabetically.

Why would I want to sort alphabetically? Two reasons. One, is that it gives me the closest thing to a random arrangement of authors on a shelf (other than a “random” option). Sometimes I want random when I am browsing. It’s a great way to discover books. And book discovery at online bookstores is unnecessarily difficult. Hence my difficulty in finding a decent epic fantasy to read. (In the end, I decided to see what Carina Press had to offer lately, which is how I discovered Nicole Lukien. My next stop would have been Tor; more on that below.)

Another reason is to be able to find that elusive author who’s name I can’t recall, but I THINK it starts with a G. Give me a page with nothing but Gs and let me scan ’em all.

Therefore, I would love a “shelf” webpage that shows me nothing but book covers. For years, publishers have had to pay for the privilege of having their books face out on the shelves. Well now they can all be face out … but hardly any bookstore arranges them that way. Just in neat rows from left to right, one row on top of the other, and with as little text as possible.

I want publisher sections. You just can’t beat Tor Books for epic fantasy. When I want an epic fantasy, I’m looking at Tor. If I can’t find their books at Amazon, I actually go to their website and start browsing around. I would love for bookstores to have publisher sections to browse. And they could probably make lots of money off of publishers by having such sections.

And why the heck have they not done this? At the bookstore, you can actually go to the Harlequin section and see row upon row of nothing but this month’s Harlequin Romances. Why can you not do that at online booksellers? It makes no sense. Did they try it and it just didn’t work? If so, how did I miss it?

AmazonFailDon’t try to sell me dresses. Why in the heck Amazon would think I would want to buy a dress from them is a complete mystery. If I want a dress, I go to Penny’s or Belk. I don’t go to Amazon. So why oh why is the top page on Amazon trying to sell me dresses? Amazon knows who I am. I am a Prime member and I have been shopping from them for years. They have, to quote the Terminator, “detailed files” on me. And yet they try to sell me dresses.

I realize that this is probably a placement paid for by some retailer. But they have just wasted their customer’s advertising dollars on me, completely and utterly. And they have ignored the needs of me, one of their valued Prime customers.

The very first thing it should be doing is trying to sell me the sequel to the book I read last week. Which it does, but you have to scroll down to find it. I should be grateful that they finally stopped trying to sell me a Kindle. Maybe they figured out from my recent purchases that I already have one. Nope, the Kindles are back.

At least they FINALLY got on board with gifting ebooks. Because giving ebooks as a gift is a wonderful thing.

What about you? What would you like to see at online booksellers, that you are not seeing? Got any bookseller recommendations?