To e-shop or not to e-shop? That is the question. Revised and updated yearly, thepurplebook provides web sites for a variety of needs, assembled according to category and using universal symbols and section icons to show what specific products are offered on each site.
Any enthusiastic online shopper welcomes a specific guide, especially when sites are rated according to price point and shipping cost. But for all the comfort of shopping from your keyboard, there remains one caveat, at least for this shopper: the shipping is the deal breaker. Avoiding out-of-state sales tax is a bonus only when you also pay low shipping costs. The price of gas has led to a rise in shipping rates, an important element when assessing whether online shopping is cost-effective. This online manual provides not only the shipping rates but other relevant customer-friendly aspects of the sites.
The concept is brilliant, as is the color, each site meeting certain criteria - price, item selection, security, ease of use, customer service numbers, etc. I wanted more information on why these particular sites are included, curious whether these sites paid to be included or are actually the result of random sampling from "search engines, message boards and recommendations." I was not able to resolve that issue.
As an experiment, I chose random URLs from the book, comparing the author's review with the quality of the sites I selected. The reviews were consistently accurate, even a bit wry. The universal symbols weren't particularly helpful, but they do indicate reasonability of price point and shipping costs, the most critical factors in making a purchasing decision. A purple star is an endorsement of the site; since the reviews already editorialize, I would like to see the text go one step further, offering a one to five star rating.
I decided to search for printer ink cartridges, somewhat out of thepurplebookís listings, without much success. For this particular item, I had to return to Google-land for the results I needed. The lesson: this collection of sources is only as good as the accuracy of information and the ease of use it provides, item specific.
However, for anyone new to online shopping and overwhelmed by the staggering number of web sites, this book is an invaluable aid. There are many online shoppers (read "Baby Boomers") who have yet to discover the joy of e-shopping, a demographic that can benefit from this sourcebook and its introduction to the online experience. Given the growing number of sites available, this is a helpful guide that sorts the wheat from the chaff.