PROS / The company has physical locations and many of the same excellent features as Amazon.com.
CONS / Their return policy window is only 14 days long.
VERDICT / This is an excellent online bookstore option, particularly for those who prefer to have a brick and mortar store.
While Amazon.com is the largest retailer on the internet, Barnes & Noble is the overall largest book retailer in the U.S. As such, it is not surprising that the company offers one of the best online bookstores around; and is now booking up with our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award. Though they do not offer a few functions that Amazon.com does, they remain a strong competitor and are able to pair online services with those in their brick and mortar stores, which many online retailers cannot do.
Barnes & Noble may not sell clothing and furniture like Amazon.com, but when it comes to books, their selection is equally impressive. New and used books of all types, including textbooks, are available for sale, as are collectable, out-of-print and autographed titles. Their third-party marketplace is not as full as Amazon.com’s, but there is still a wide array of books available.
If you are looking for a non-book product, they still have a number of great options, although the selection is largely built around items that would make good gift ideas. Toys, games, DVDs, CDs, reading lights, select electronics, paper products and more are available.
The store also features a number of eBooks that can be used on its Nook reading device.
Barnes & Noble has one of the easiest online bookstore websites to use, as the attractive site makes browsing and searching a breeze. Advanced search options are available, allowing you to search by the book’s condition, subject, price, publisher, ISBN and a number of other factors.
The top navigation bars make casually browsing the site a breeze and the home page is both attractive and useful at suggesting the items and features that users want most. Once you have selected the category you are interested in though, Barnes & Noble fails to offer the same level of browsing options as Amazon.com.
The product pages are useful, offering photos of the book and sample pages, customer reviews, a brief synopsis, editor reviews, and similar titles. From here, you can choose to buy the book new through Barnes & Noble, see your options for purchasing the item used, add the item to your wish list or order it to be reserved for you at a local store near you using the “Pick Me Up” feature.
The used section of the online bookstore is similar to Amazon.com, offering seller reviews, product condition descriptions, the item’s location, shipping items and the price of the item. One thing it is lacking is the price of shipping to help customers evaluate the total price of the item.
Like Amazon.com and Borders, Barnes & Noble offers free expedited shipping on items over $25 but, items purchased through authorized sellers on the site, and not directly through the retailer itself, are not eligible for Fast & Free Shipping.
Items purchased directly though Barnes and Noble can be shipped a variety of different ways, including overnight, expedited, and international. These items can also be tracked on the site. When it comes to authorized sellers, these options may vary and are offered at the discretion of the seller. It should also be noted that these purchases cannot be tracked.
One of the nicest features available on the website is the previously mentioned “Pick Me Up” option, which allows buyers to find their books at a local Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store within 60 minutes, and allowing them to bypass shipping costs. The books will remain on hold for you for up to three days, after which time, they will be returned to the shelf.
Gift wrapping services, gift receipts and personal messages for gift recipients are all available on items purchased through the retailer. Wrapping does cost an additional $3.99, but the other two options are free.
Of all the online bookstores reviewed, Barnes & Noble and Amazon offer the best selection of payment options. In fact, the only two payment choices that seem lacking are bank account transfers and Google Checkout. They do accept all credit cards, including Diner’s Club and JCB, PayPal, and phone payments. You may also pay in person using check or cash.
When using the site’s secure checkout process, it is easy to apply a promotional code or gift card to your purchase.
Barnes & Noble offers the widest array of customer service options available. The online bookstore even has four different mobile applications for customer support on your cell phone. Their extensive FAQ section is easy to navigate and if the answers there do not solve your problems, you can call, email or speak to someone in person at a physical store near you.
B&N Members receive special discounts via email and always get discounts on the website and in the physical stores. This membership does cost extra though.
The most disappointing aspect of shopping with Barnes & Noble is their relatively short returns window and lack of free return shipping. While it is nice to be able to return to a physical store if you need to, the 14 day returns policy and mandatory receipt rule make it difficult to ensure you can return defective, broken or unwanted items when you need to. To make matters worse, items purchased using PayPal require a phone call in order to get a return authorization before you can receive a credit back on your account.
If you purchased the item through an authorized seller, the return window is extended to an acceptable 30 days, but the return will take additional time to process.
Barnes & Noble’s blending of virtual bookstores and physical shops makes the retailer a great option for those who need their items in a hurry, don’t want to pay shipping or just aren’t one-hundred percent comfortable with online shopping yet. Their online store offers a great selection of new and used books, and other items. The website is clean, attractive and easy-to-use.
Their shipping options are plenty and the availability of Fast & Free Shipping is always a welcome feature. The wide array of payment options makes it easy to complete your transaction and if you have any questions, customer service is always easily accessible. The only downside of shopping with the site is their short return window. If you intend to only buy books for yourself that you already know you like, then even this problem isn’t a major concern.
If you want to compare more options, feel free to see the reviews of other online bookstores. Or, if you’re just looking for school books, you may consider the textbooks online review.
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