The Purple Book: The Definitive Guide to Exceptional Online Shopping



Attention shoppers! Tens of thousands of Internet retailers are clamoring for your business, but you stand a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of finding the best online shops out there. Now get ready to be struck by lightning over and over again, because you hold in your hands the first edition of the most ...
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Attention shoppers! Tens of thousands of Internet retailers are clamoring for your business, but you stand a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of finding the best online shops out there. Now get ready to be struck by lightning over and over again, because you hold in your hands the first edition of the most complete, authoritative guide to online shopping that has ever been available—thepurplebook™.

Here are more than 1,600 of the best Internet shopping sites— selected, tested, and organized for your information and convenience. Every site in this book has been poked, prodded, scrutinized, and held to a rigorous set of standards. For every store reviewed here, six or seven were left out because they simply were not up to par.

Those sites that are featured have demonstrated superior qualities of product selection, consumer service, and/or price, covering a full range of tastes and interests. thepurplebook, at long last, makes it easy to find the right something for yourself and everyone on your shopping list.

Find vital information and the most exciting sites for these essential categories:

Art & Collectibles
Gadgets & Electronics
Health & Beauty
Home & Garden
Lifestyles & Megastores
Men's Apparel
Shoes & Accessories
Sports & Outdoors
Stationery & Gifts
Women's Apparel
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553382785
  • Publisher: Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/14/2003
  • Edition description: 2004 Edition
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 7.32 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Frustrated by the seemingly random results generated by most Internet search engines, Hillary Mendelsohn decided to create a comprehensive resource to help online shoppers like herself, drawing on her experience as a busy professional and equally busy wife and parent.

With an education in literature and the law, Mendelsohn began her career in the entertainment industry, co-founding a management and production company before helping to spin off toys, apparel and other products from entertainment properties such as Terminator 2, Mortal Kombat and Baywatch at The Licensing Group in Los Angeles. A year later she launched her own consulting firm, Poetic Licensing, which has since brought its marketing expertise to such clients as Warner Bros., Franchise Pictures, Sega, Imax, and the Vatican.

Several years ago, Mendelsohn's first, late-night attempt at online shopping led her to a revelation — and a new venture. Having typed a "very specific" query into a search engine and received no less than 367 matches, she found that only seven had any relevance. With no available resource guide on the market, she began to create online shopping lists for herself. They proved popular among her friends. So popular, in fact, that Mendelsohn spent three years compiling the ultimate resource: thepurplebook.

As a religious user of guides such as Zagat, Mendelsohn began to create her own online shopping lists for herself, grouping entries into various categories such as Apparel and Collectibles. When her friends started asking for these lists, she realized there was nothing like this available and started to brainstorm a published guide, onethat assessed Web sites and their products based on price, selection, uniqueness and convenience (e.g., Can an item be returned to a brick-and-mortar venue?). In June 2000, thepurplebook began to take form and it now will be published as a Bantam Trade Paperback in November 2003.

During the three years from its conception, Mendelsohn has personally researched more than 25,000 e-commerce sites across roughly 20 categories, culling more than 1,600 listings for the first print run of thepurplebook. As an arbiter of what qualifies she draws from the aforementioned criteria, as well as her discerning tastes and her experience as a busy mother of two.

"You won't find many of the sites listed in thepurplebook on the first ten pages of search engines, so how would you find them?" she says. "The Internet has the potential to offer busy people a way to get the most out of their time, and there are real bargains and unique items out there for the picking. It's a matter of finding just what you want, and that's what this resource guide is all about."

Hillary Mendelsohn is actively involved with several organizations including C.O.A.C.H. for kids, providing mobile medical treatment for low-income children through Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles; and is the executive director of FLASH, a safety and preparedness program newly launched in all of California's 8,000 public schools.

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Table of Contents

Art & Collectibles
Gadgets & Electronics
Health & Beauty
Home & Garden
Lifestyles & Megastores
Men's Apparel
Shoes & Accessories
Sports & Outdoors
Stationery & Gifts
Women's Apparel
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First Chapter


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 as well.


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 1,200,000online 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….


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.


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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


These indexes will help you track down specific products, stores and sites of interest in the most efficient manner.

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.

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 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.


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). If you like to try your hand at this artistry, you'll find all the tools and materials you need to get started, and even some books on the subject… if you need books to outsmart a fish, that is.
"Shop yourself silly" is the motto of this wild and colorful site that makes online retail more fun than a barrel of sea monkeys. The toys range from the wacky to the sublime, including things like fake mustaches, chemistry sets, stilts, and night vision goggles. There's also an entire section devoted to practical jokes (in case you need a remote control fart machine), and an area devoted to kites. Other toys are broken down by age group, then split into categories like Girly Girl, Tom Boy, Brainiac, Goof Ball and Cool Dude, which makes it easy to find items to tickle your child's fancy, whatever it is. A search function might make it easier to find those toys you have in mind coming in, but then you would miss out on all the good stuff you could never imagine.
Behind the proclamation "Size Really Does Matter," this site caters to the heftier among us with a scant but sizable selection of work, dress and casual wear. Keeping jeans from being hard to find, and shirts from being hard to button, affordability is truly the greatest asset here, with prices low enough to warrant just buying everything in sight. There's a little, rather a big, bit of everything to be found here, from suspenders and belts to keep your pants on when you're slimming down and button extenders to keep your shirt from choking you when you slim back up. Here, it's easy either way.
When traveling with children, you typically deal with three primary concerns: 1) keeping them safe, 2) keeping them comfortable and 3) keeping them quiet. This site addresses all of these needs for both road and air travel, with a brief array of products designed to secure, coddle and/or entertain the kids during the meantime of a vacation. From the simplicity of a harness that stabilizes a baby on your lap during airplane turbulence, to the extravagance of an in-car DVD player, there's not much here, and it's not all easy to shop for, but sometime mid-voyage you'll be glad you did.
As if the trauma of Physical Education in school wasn't enough, this site allows you to recreate the experience at home, offering all manner of children's recreational and athletic gear. For starters, you can find many sizes of those ubiquitous red, air-filled balls (known to many as the terror-inflicting 'dodge ball'). Then there are climbing-walls, gymnastic stations, bowling carpets (to simulate indoor lanes), tetherball sets and even those big parachutes that teach youngsters the value of… something or other. Once you've filled your home with this equipment, select scoreboards and bleachers and invite other parents over to get worked into a frenzy over whose kid is best at what.
Sure, perfumes and body oils almost always smell good, but how many of them look this good? This Paris-based perfumery is "dedicated to creating prestige fragrances according to the finest traditional French methods." If you can judge a fragrance by its cover, this looks like about the best you can buy. Of course, it doesn't work that way, but we're willing to run with the assumption that these scents make sense. Why? Because the traditional techniques they speak of stem from a time in France where people didn't bathe very often— their parfums had to be good.
"Modern physics, various eastern philosophies and ecology all have shown that we live in a unified field." This says it all, does it not? At least, it serves to explain, in part, why this retailer sells "natural and holistic products designed to enhance and extend the lives of your pets." You see, according to the owners of one brand featured here, "animals are herbalist by nature but domestication prohibits them from instinctively seeking the botanical diversity their bodies require." All right, this one does deviate from the beaten path a bit, but you can't shake a stick at natural products and treatments for a variety of animals. Unless, of course, shaking a stick is one of the recommended treatments.
Nostalgia and your sweet tooth come crashing together with this specialty retailer that offers all "the candy you ate as a kid." We're talking Willy Wonka candies, Jujyfruits, Jawbreakers, Atomic Fireballs, Wax Lips and Candy Necklaces, among others. These classics of the sugar kingdom are available here by the box (the display boxes used in stores), in a three pound assorted bag (featuring at least 35 different candies) and in a Pack Your Own Bag feature. The latter is the obvious best choice, allowing you to scroll through all your old favorites, adding quantities as you go. You'll be just like that kid you used to be in a candy store, except this time you'll have more than a nickel to spend.
Generally speaking, we don't give specific cities preferential treatment. However, generally speaking, Las Vegas is not a normal city. An unlikely mélange of dry heat, gambling, spectacle and lavish water usage, in Vegas you'll find people of all ages, from all walks of life, achieving new highs and lows and swept up in the sensory overload. This site attempts to make some sense of it all, from a safe distance, providing all manner of resources from bar & club guides to events calendars, and of course discount advance bookings in all the major and minor casinos, often packaged with airfare. You want to go and they want you to come. Sounds like we have a winner!
This site can connect you with a selection of more than 2000 villas located on coastlines and in countrysides the world over. And when we say 'villa,' we don't mean glorified shacks either; these short-term rentals have been rated either First Class, Deluxe or Luxurious, though we could scarcely hazard a guess as to what marks such distinctions. Actually, we did find a villa or two that possessed thatched roofs, but as they were located on a private island in the Pacific, we're assuming them to be hi-end regardless.

Copyright© 2003 by Hillary Mendelsohn
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Shopping Made Easy

    This is the perfect book to help guide you threw holiday shopping. Hillary has great taste and provided some wonderful hints to find special items. I love this book and have gotten copies for friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Finally! a useful book about online shopping!!!

    I have been waiting for something to come out to help me find great online stores and the purple book is IT! Thank you for putting together such a great directory!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2003

    Shoppers Delight --- Power to the Purple

    I am a HUSBAND, FATHER AND Foreman OF A Construction Co. I NEVER WRITE REVEIWS. THIS IS THE GREATEST BOOK ON SHOPPING ONLINE. The EPICUREAN section rocks the kitchen and the Wedding section is a Father of the Bride's dream. Hey Guys... Put the jack hammer away and Buy it...2+Thumbs Up

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