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This seems to be one of those ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ sites. I prefer to think of it like paracetamol. Very beneficial if used correctly.
Next are the, for want of a better word, folder headings [Bestsellers at 60% off – Bookstore – Software & Games – 3-4-£10 offer – New Year Sale]. The last two are the current special offers and liable to change.
Hugging the left side are the categories within the main folders. For example the following are what you will find under ‘Bookstore’. Art, Philosophy and Poetry Biography Business & Computing Books for Older Children Books for Younger Children Contemporary Fiction Crime & Thrillers Entertainment Food & Drink Health, Beauty &Self Help History, Politics & Society Home & Garden Reference Romantic Fiction Science & Nature Sport Travel
Other folders have similar category lists, sometimes to a lesser extent depending what’s on offer.
Soft ware & Games is very limited. It’s worth a look if you just want to browse, but don’t expect to get excited over it. That said, you might find something you like and it all has at least 20% off, so who knows.
The main part of the page is generally taken up with some examples of books from various categories. One book picture plus a short list of some others per category. Several of the most popular categories are given this treatment.
Over on the right side are things like Book of the Month, Pre-order and Weeks Bestsellers.
Navigation is easy. Pages load quite quickly and there are no ads other than BOL ones directing you to their own pages.
You have to be a member to order books, but not to view. Members login is at the top left hand side just below the bar containing the folder headings and the search facility. Signing up is quite easy and takes no longer than the usual 5-10 mins.
Right. That’s what you see, now what do you get.
Bargain books? Definitely. The range is fairly good but beware, some are ‘special titles’. This means the content is the same as the original, but the cover may be paperback instead of hardback or the size may differ for example. In most cases this doesn’t bother me too much, but if you’re purchasing the book for a gift or you want a genuine first edition copy of something, then my best advice is consider getting it elsewhere to be on the safe side. I recently ordered Terry Pratchett’s Nightwatch at £7.19, a saving of £10.80. Delivery took about a week from ordering. When it arrived it was a BOOKCLUB edition and rather smaller than the rest of my collection. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I’m just that much fussier about my Pratchett books. In the same order was the latest Pratchett diary, which I saved 60% on, and is EXACTLY THE SAME as the shops version, as is the more recently ordered ‘What The Tudors And Stuarts Did For Us’, which only cost £8 (full price £20, Amazon price about £15). So I returned Nightwatch.
To return a book you simply click the returns button found on the ‘Your Account’ page and proceed from there. Three days later someone collected the parcel, leaving a numbered parcel receipt. The only downside here, was not knowing when the parcel was to be picked up, and I hovered around the house a lot until it was retrieved. A date and approximate time would be useful here, because if you’re out at work all day, I can foresee problems arising.
Then I dutifully checked my account every day to see when it had arrived back. The page says allow a few days, but since this was just before Christmas I allowed extra time. It took about two weeks, plus another 2-3 days for my credit card to be repaid. The nice part though, was that I was also repaid the p+p charge, which I didn’t expect. If you order 3 books, p+p is free, so if you return one, I have a nasty feeling this will incur p+p charges on the other two. Oh well, you can’t have it all ways I suppose.
P+P is £1 for each of the first two books ordered, then free for 3 onwards. Considering the discounts available I think this is cheap.
On becoming a member, you agree to buy one further title in the next six months. Since I’m on my third order in less than two months, I think I’m home and dry on this one.
BOL gives a generous 2pts per £1 spent for those who collect ipoints, but you must visit via the ipoints site and enter the same email on registering as you use for your ipoints. I received mine quite quickly. So quickly in fact that they were there before the book was registered as returned. Although they weren’t retrieved, my next order, which was of less value than the returned book, received no points. In fact, by my calculations, I still owe them three points so I’ll wait and see how this develops and update if I feel cheated in any way. No news is good news in this case!
Security is provided by Trustwise Secure Site. Your credit card details are not ‘held’, so you’ll need to enter them every time you order. Personally I prefer this. Details of your orders can be viewed on the ‘Your Account’ page, along with returns and transactions. Orders cannot be cancelled once placed. For some reason your ‘orders’ sometimes disappear completely for a while. I think this is when they are changing from ‘on order’ to ‘dispatched’. Don’t panic! They will reappear after a day or so. Your details, such as email and address can also be updated from this page.
I haven’t had to contact BOL personally, so I can’t comment on their customer service. If at any point I do contact them, then I’ll update this op. So far I haven’t had to complain which can only be a good thing. All my books have arrived well packed and in much better condition than many shop bought specimens. COMPLETELY pristine in all cases!
This is a good site if you accept its limitations. Most of the gripes concerning it seem to be where people’s expectations of it are too high. Also it seems to have undergone a re-vamp some time recently but since I didn’t use it before this I can’t comment on the difference. If you haven’t visited for a while perhaps now is the time for another look.
Ideally a more honest approach to the shortcomings would probably save a lot of grief for all concerned in the long run. I’d certainly like to see the ‘bookclub’ editions more clearly marked. I don’t mind waiting a week for delivery, I’d just like to be told that’s how long it’s likely to take. Order tracking has two phases. Your book is ‘on order’, your book is ‘dispatched’. Fair enough, they haven’t spent a lot on technology, but in return you make the savings on the books.
I hope this op helps you avoid some of the pitfalls on this site because there are some really great bargains to be had here. Happy shopping!
You mentioned 'becoming a member' and having to buy another book? Eek! Shivers of fear down my spine. I think we've all had enough crap from the book clubs to make a 'commitment', however paltry! When it comes to discount books, I'm commitment phobic!! Good op though, I'd always wondered what BoL was like. Cheers, Kaz
mike081179 03.03.2003 23:38
I use Amazon myself, but now I know about Bol,I will give then a look too. - Mike
offy 14.02.2003 22:18
As I started shopping on Amazon as soon as I went on-line, I've never really investigated BOL. Your op has convinced me that I should do so, as the P&P prices are good and the prices sound keen. Cheers.