Penguin boosts book browsing on new website but won’t sell direct

Penguin Random House has launched a new website which aims to make it easier to browse and discover books but it’s not selling direct to the consumer.

The site looks like it’s got its inspiration from ebook subscription services Oyster Unlimited and Scribd, which both feature parallax-scrolling-type layouts with selections of books in various categories.

It shows off a wide variety of frontlist and backlist titles, but nobody has yet quite matched the sheer unpredictable discoverability of strolling around a good old-fashioned bookshop or library.

Harper Collins set up an ecommerce site last year selling its print and ebooks direct to consumers, but Penguin is sending sales to retailers, covering Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, Powell’s, and the perhaps somewhat unlikely partners of Target and Walmart.

In fact, Penguin is doing itself down on prices as it’s quoting the list price on its own site, which is generally considerably lower at the retailer. For example, the print book of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is priced at $26.95 on the PRH site, but 50% less at $13.47 when you click through to Walmart or

The major problem with publishers’ websites is that, by and large, readers are looking for books from the whole market rather than from a particular publisher, although the original part of Penguin would certainly have a fan base.

The new site has a good overall look but could do with more curation to get away from a sense of overwhelm from the rows of books and the links to 10 other consumer sites in the PRH network, perhaps by giving the bolted-on blog (The Perch) a makeover and bringing it up front to focus on content rather than products.