Now Bing Is in the Bookselling Business
It wasn’t long ago that we reported Google getting rid of its visual “carousel” of hotel listings. But the carousel hasn’t gone the way of the dodo, and Bing just rolled out a new one—for bestselling books.
As covered on Search Engine Land, the carousel shows up whenever users search for certain types of bestsellers, such as “bestselling fiction” or “bestselling kids’ books.” The normal search results also appear, but with them is a horizontal scroller showing the covers of current top sellers in that genre. Titles and author names appear below each cover shot.
Clicking on a cover brings up more information including ratings and—importantly—links to buy the books.
Is this an Amazon killer? Not at all. In fact, Amazon will generally be among the bookseller links that come up when you click on a title. In fact, the carousel doesn’t seem to be paid ad space at all—in other words, Bing isn’t even getting a cut for referring traffic. It’s basically just a more visually attractive way of delivering organic book title results, with the selection of books pulled from the current week’s NYT list.
The Best Design for the Job
The carousel does raise some questions, especially when comparing it with Google. Google has used carousels for years, most notably in its hotel results, showing a similar scroller of area hotels for travel related searches. But Google recently nixed its hotel carousel, switching instead to a “three pack” of the top hotel listings—a much more visually focused offering.
Clearly, Google felt that presenting less options increased the chance of users clicking on any of them. Will Bing run into the same problem with its book carousel?
The easy answer is no. After all, there are lots of books on the bestseller list for any genre, and limiting results to the top three would seem pretty restrictive. But on the other hand there are lots of hotels in most search destinations, too. And the top three bestselling books in any genre are, by definition, the ones most people are looking for.
So it’s entirely possible that over time Bing will find a lower click through rate on the book carousel than they expect. Users may simply suffer from decision fatigue, or not be used to browsing titles in the SERPs the way they would in a retail site. Perhaps ultimately Bing too will need to move to a more focused presentation.
But there is one crucial difference between hotel results and book results: with book shopping, half the fun is in perusing titles. There’s almost nothing fun about perusing hotels, and most people are looking to do a side-by-side analysis of prices, ratings and amenities. Give them a few quick options so they can choose the best one and their search is over. Books aren’t like that. People who love to read generally love to book shop, and scrolling through the latest carousel might come close to the feeling of looking at a shelf of brand new books.
In other words, Bing’s new look may be a bestseller after all.