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ThepurplebookThe Definitive Guide to Exceptional Online Shopping
By Hillary Mendelsohn
Warner BooksCopyright © 2005 Hillary Mendelsohn
All right reserved.
thepurplebook exists to provide consumers with an internet shopping directory that is at once comprehensive, objective, incisive, entertaining, reliable, easy-to-use and, above all, informative. It is our sincere hope that the sites listed within these pages will offer some of the best online shopping experiences available, and that our humble book will contribute in some small way to the many conveniences and advantages of e-commerce.
In years to come, we plan to continually improve the book with updated editions, so as to expand and improve our unique collection, both with the addition of new sites and the inclusion of new categories. Hopefully, by cultivating the awareness of discerning shoppers, our books will encourage existing sites to better serve the online shopping population, and we welcome this growth. We believe that the American economy is best served if a wide variety of large and small businesses can fairly compete on a national and global level, and with thepurplebook our intention is not only to bring the best available products and services to deserving consumers, but to direct customers to deserving retailers aswell.
Have you ever actually tried to find a needle in a haystack? Of course not. The expression only exists to highlight the futility of such pursuits. And yet, every day, tens of millions of people turn to web search engines to help them find the information and merchandise that interests them most. However, suppose you enter a query for the word ‘needle’ on the internet’s most powerful search engine. The resulting list features more than 1,200,000 online pages to sort through.
Welcome to the world wide web. With more than one billion pages already, and that number expected to double each year, it’s no longer just a matter of finding the needle; the problem is finding the right haystack.
It gets worse. If you type in ‘shirts,’ you get almost four million responses. ‘Wine’ gets you nearly six million. Type in ‘gifts,’ and you will be presented with more than seven million pages, each of which might contain what you’re looking for, if you’re willing to take the time to find it….
WE TAKE THE GUESSWORK OUT OF ONLINE SHOPPING
thepurplebook is the solution to your search engine woes. The way we see it, why waste valuable time looking for an online shop, then waste more time looking for the item you want to purchase, only to discover that you shouldn’t have bothered in the first place? Isn’t the promise of the internet that it has the power to make our lives both easier and more efficient? Then why must we spend entire afternoons scouring through dozens or hundreds of web sites instead spending that time at the beach?
We spent over a year cataloging and reviewing every e-commerce site we could track down, whether we found out about it through search engines, advertisements, links from other web sites, community bulletin boards, magazine articles or word of mouth. Of the tens of thousands online stores we discovered, we had to toss a few out for being detrimental to humanity. The rest we subjected to our own rigorous set of standards, scrutinizing each aspect of the site: Is it easy to use? Does it have a good selection? Are the prices good? Will it download in less than an hour?
By the end, we’d whittled down the selection to include only the finest catalogs, the most beautiful web designs, the best bargains and that occasional ingenious purveyor of a product or service of such unique charm that we couldn’t possibly leave it out. Our final tally includes brick-and-mortar stores that have established a viable online presence, manufacturers who have done the same, internet juggernauts that have managed to survive the dot-com backlash, and small businesses, often individuals working out of their bedrooms, who’ve embraced the virtual marketplace in their pursuit of the American Dream. It’s a pretty good bunch, capable of fulfilling nearly any online shopping need you may have, and possibly turning you on to something new.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT...
All of these sites we have assembled into a single collection, printed on actual, as opposed to virtual, pages, indexed and split up into several categories to correspond with the nation’s most common shopping needs, as follows:
ART & COLLECTIBLES
Whether you want to bid on the original master works of the century, poster your dorm room or add to your collection of kitsch, we have the online tools to help dress your surroundings in any mode, medium or era, across all price ranges.
Whatever your tastes, we have a listing for just the sort of music, movie or book you may want to find, whether you’re seeking old (records, print, video) or new (CD, eBook, DVD) formats. Or, if you prefer a less passive pastime, you can find plenty of puzzles and games, as well as tickets to live performances/events.
Named for the sensuous embrace of luxurious living, this section features stores dedicated to grocery items, gourmet foods, vintage wines and fine cigars. While there’s an obvious disparity between listings for health food and tobacco products, we have to figure that it all balances out.
GADGETS & ELECTRONICS
Improving life from the outside in, this category includes computer hardware and software, along with a lengthy list of electronics for your home or pocket, whether the aim is to enjoy music or hold conversations over great distances. Then there are the whimsical, non-electric devices that can accomplish stuff bare hands just never could.
HEALTH & BEAUTY
All the convenience of a corner drug store, and all the glamour of a high-priced salon; in this section, you will find the pills, dressings and ointments it takes to keep your body healthy, as well as all the cosmetics, cleansers and fragrances you favor to keep yourself looking and feeling beautiful.
HOME & GARDEN
From home improvement to making your garden grow, this section comes complete with listings to help furnish any room in the house or landscape your grounds with flowers, latticework and even bodies of water.
LIFESTYLES & MEGASTORES
These are stores that don’t fit the mold. Any of them might offer everything you want to buy in a single location. Some cater to a specific lifestyle or interest you may have, while others have simply assembled a smattering of random merchandise. Either way, the benefits of these shops include wide selections and the optimization of shipping charges.
Between special equipment and expert advice, the primary focus of this section has the health of parent and child in mind. On the other hand, a thorough selection of fashionable clothing will help show off the radiance of impending motherhood during nine months of changes. You’ll have to see the Epicurean section to satisfy any odd food cravings, though.
Clothes for any event, style or day of the week make for easy browsing with this list of man-friendly stores. If the appropriate dress involves a tie, no problem. If jeans are better suited to the activity, find them here. Whether the aim is to impress a woman, satisfy the boss or while away the days in comfort, you can find your threads in the best way possible: fast.
From infants on through teens, this section caters to children, whether you’re doing the shopping for them or they’re picking things out themselves. Most likely, toy stores will be at the top of their lists, while parents might prefer the clothes or educational opportunities, any of which span a range of prices and interests.
For the animals with the greatest owners, these sites cover all the basics, like food and hygiene, and even manage to include a lot of indulgences, ranging from toys to furniture and even some clothing. A healthy, happy pet is a cinch, whether it walks, flies, crawls, swims or trots.
The tools and products to be found in this section address the lifestyle changes typically faced by those over the age of 55. Most prominently featured are items that promote independent living, whether by combating the symptoms of a particular physical ailment, or by increasing access to the world of technology.
SHOES & ACCESSORIES
True style includes every part of the body, from head to toe. With this in mind, this section offers everything from hats to shoes, alongside some jewelry, watches and eyewear, with handbags and wallets to stow it all in. Whatever the accoutrements, men and women alike will find some great ones here.
SPORTS & OUTDOORS
Physical lifestyles get more active with less effort thanks to these online shops devoted to home gyms, athletic equipment and outdoor gear. Whether you intend to trounce the competition, camp high up in the stratosphere or pursue your own body’s limits, these listings will help.
STATIONERY & GIFTS
The Stationery portions of this section feature anything from personalized letterheads to invitations and greeting cards, while the Gifts that are offered include standards like flowers, baskets and confections, with a few innovative ideas thrown in for those tough-to-shop-for special occasions.
Get out of town. Better yet, do it with ease and comfort. Here you can find several different means of booking flights, hotel rooms, car rentals and any other kind of accommodation you might require on your travels. Better still, outfit yourself with the right clothes, luggage and other gear that’ll make getting there nearly as fine as being there.
Making the most important day of your life a little easier to plan, these sites can help you establish the costuming, invitations, decorations and catering that may mean the difference between a day to remember and a lifetime to forget. And then there’s the best part: the wedding registries.
Your wardrobe just got better. In this section you will find an extensive selection of shops, featuring every layer of clothes between the world and your skin. Whether it’s lingerie, swimwear, outerwear or a killer evening gown, you may easily find the best designers and/or the greatest bargains.
Have you got something to give? Here are some fine ways to devote yourself to the betterment of the planet, whether you’re improving peoples’ lives or saving the environment. If nothing else, in this section you’ll discover that helping out is easier and more effective today than ever before.
HOW TO USE thepurplebook
While we’ve made every effort to be discriminating, the number of web sites listed in this book does approach 1,700. Though these comprise a mere fraction of the more than 10,000 sites we viewed, we’re well aware that it’s a lot to handle. With this in mind, we’ve split the book into 19 Categories, and designed a system to make individual sites and products easier to locate. If you are looking for a good place to shop or find a gift, for example, you may browse the alphabetical site listings. If you have something more specific in mind, you may search one of our several indexes for products, companies or key words
Within each Category, thepurplebook site listings are arranged alphabetically, and presented along with a five-or six-sentence summary that should give you a general idea of what to expect from the site before ever logging on. Alongside these reviews, you will find icons that evaluate the site’s service, selection and usability, as well as a list of key words describing the store’s product selection.
Using the icons and key words, you may browse each category to find specific product types, or to find stores that offer specific services like gift wrapping or overnight delivery.
USING THE INDEXES
These indexes will help you track down specific products, stores and sites of interest in the most efficient manner.
KEY WORD INDEX
Located in the introduction to each section you will find a key word index that can help you locate which stores carry particular types of products within that category.
At the end of the book you will find a detailed listing of products and the corresponding names of sites that carry them. Note that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list, and that you will be able to find some of these products on sites not mentioned in the Index. By the same token, using the key word indexes within each section, you are bound to find some products we missed.
COMPANY NAME INDEX
This list of brand and company names, located at the end of the book, is simply meant to help you locate web sites for companies that may not otherwise be readily familiar. For example, if you look up popular chain store Urban Outfitters, you will discover that they reside under the URBN.com URL.
Also located at the end of the book, this index simply lists each of the site URL’s in alphabetical order, regardless of category.
FIND ONLY WHAT YOU NEED...
With thepurplebook in hand, the huge, looming specter of the internet is broken down a bit, and the futility of searching through its billions of pages eclipsed. Finally, we can conquer the overflow of information, at least a small part of it, and fulfill the potential promised to us by the world wide web. Finally, we can shop.
Sample Site Listings
Describing its wares as, “a combination of serious eroticism and naughty exhibitionism” to promote “a sexy superhero feeling,” Agent Provocateur delivers on all counts. The London boutique, made famous for controversial window dressings that have prompted complaints to the local constabulary, has turned its line of screamingly sexy lingerie— it walks the fine line between sleaze and mystique— into a highly sought brand by embracing the power of public spectacle. Each range of intimates they feature corresponds to a sordid and kinky scenario which ultimately attracts your attention to the gorgeous and tantalizing corsets, bustiers, et al. that ornament the players. Browsing may take you a while, but you won’t be bored. We promise.
Devotees will tell you that fly-fishing beats all other kinds in terms of skill and enjoyment. This site will tell you the same, with a wide selection of gear and apparel, alongside a great assortment of flies. Of course, hardcore enthusiasts consider the true sport to be in the tying of flies (pitting your cunning and intellect against the most finicky of aquatic creatures).
Excerpted from Thepurplebook by Hillary Mendelsohn Copyright © 2005 by Hillary Mendelsohn. Excerpted by permission.
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