Why does shopping online for novels have to be a dry experience?


And by that, I don’t mean that we should all liquor up before browsing for our next great read. Rather, the slightly sterile point-click-scroll nature of web browsing doesn’t quite fit the escapist, often otherworldly nature of the novels that we buy. With Inkflash, a 3D bookstore that runs in your web browser, we’ve set out to make online book-buying a far richer experience.

Authors can upload PDFs so their books can be previewed in 3D
Authors can upload PDFs so their books can be previewed in 3D

The obvious thing would be to attempt to recreate the “bricks-and-mortar” shopping experience in a Virtual Reality environment. But while the idea seems compelling, I don’t think anyone really wants that. If people wanted a realistic 3D bookshop, they would just head out to a real bookshop – which I’m guessing they already do…

So, instead of trying to recreate the bookshop, we’re recreating the books that you’re shopping for.

Explore historical novels by Tony Riches
Explore historical novels by Tony Riches

The net result is that each “room” at Inkflash is immersive, like an interactive 3D book trailer where a setting from a novel is brought to life. Visitors are then far more captivated by individual books. They become intrigued by a book’s setting, and find that they want to know more about the characters and the story. It’s a far from sterile shopping experience!

We do have “category rooms” as well, which feel more like a 3D bookshop: rows of shelves, curated titles, top-10s etc. These rooms are primarily a navigation aid — e.g. the Science Fiction and Fantasy room forms a connected “hub room” from which SF and fantasy authors’ own themed rooms can be found.

Science Fiction category room
Science Fiction category room

If you’re an author signing up with Inkflash, you’ll get a 3D “author room” themed around one of your books. The room can also contain all of your other books, and rooms can be linked together if you’d like more than one. Initially you can choose from a collection of 3D templates (rather like Wordpress themes), and tailor the room via the easy-to-use drag-and-drop Room Builder. (Or if you’d prefer, we can always design a custom room for you – or point you in the direction of third-party designers who are becoming a dab hand with the Room Builder).

Your themed book room can also be displayed on your own website, just like embedding a YouTube video.

I hope you’ll agree that Inkflash is a fascinating and fun way for readers to discover new books in their web browser; and an exciting new way for authors to market their books.

Based in London, Matt Stephens is the owner and co-founder of Inkflash, and founder of indie Historical Fiction publisher Fingerpress. Before that he spent 20 years as a software developer, mainly in finance, and wrote some books on software design. Authors who’d like a virtual room on Inkflash should contact Matt without delay, at: matt@inkflash.com

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