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I’m confused

How can I find books to buy on your site by topic.

How can I find books by technical topic? I find the new layout of your web page confusing. I liked it when I could simply go and click on programming languages -> PHP and find PHP books, etc. How can I get back to that system? I can't find anything just by looking at the most popular keywords you have now.
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  • Hello psychoz199,

    As you noticed, we're working on our nav. Before I get into an explantation of what we've done, you can use our search, which we've greatly improved and made more accessible and prominent on all pages.

    Now to an explanation. What we found was that the topic nav just wasn't that useful to most customers, except the "Programming" topic. So what we did was create topic pages on the top 20 things visitors were actually asking us for, day after day. We may need to broaden that list so it includes additional topics. In the meantime, we've gone back and forth on including the old nav below the new. We're closely monitoring feedback and we can quickly put it back if necessary.

    Thanks for taking the time to write.

    --Allen
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  • Cool. Well consider this my vote for adding the old nav beneath the new one, I'd use it.
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  • Let me be more specific about my concern, actually: While I can still find books, what I can't do is sort them by popularity. This was actually a pretty useful tool to figure out what I might want to buy. Even a great publisher like O'Reilly has books of differing quality, utility, breadth of appeal, etc. Often I found myself looking most closely at the most popular books, trusting the collective wisdom of other programmers (Hey, did I hear a "Web 2.0" in there somewhere? ;) )

    That's why Amazon tells you that people who looked at a certain book also looked at certain other books, etc. It's a great heuristic when shopping. You should at least re-add the ability to sort by popularity and maybe also by rating.

    That said, the other problem is that I might not use the right keyword. Under your old system, there were a limited number of sections, so if there was a book out there for me to buy, I knew it had to be in 1 of maybe 3 or 4 sections. There wasn't a risk that I was simply searching for the wrong keyword. Now, there is that risk - something could fall through the cracks if I choose the wrong word.

    Finally, both your search and keyword tools assume that people either know what they're looking for, or will decide what to look at based on the most popular items of the day. But what if I don't know what I'm looking for, and it's also not popular? For example, a book on a relatively obscure topic that was not published recently and has not recently made the news. O'Reilly has lots of classics like that, but I might not find them if I can't choose categories that roughly match what I want and then get ideas from the subcategories.
    • Hello psychoxl99,

      Let me address your points one by one:

      First, I'm not sure what you mean by sort by popularity. We had, and still have, a bestseller list, and that hasn't moved. It's on the far right of the homepage, down a ways at the moment. Other than that, we didn't have a most popular list, and I'm not certain how we'd even go about that other than by bestseller. Most popular to whom? Tell me more. Our upgraded search does give us better tools for weighting and relevance, and we'll be tuning that going forward. Popularity w/in a category is definitely something we'll be working towards.

      To your point about Amazon pointing out other books, we're using a collective intelligence tool supplied by Aggregate Knowledge that does this with a lot of sophistication, and those boxes show up on all catalog pages as well as article pages. What you see in the AK box is based on your actions and the actions of people like you. I think it's working quite well for us, and it reveals content from across all our sites that are running the AK code.

      I've been traveling this week and will talk w/ my group about the old topic browse links. I didn't like it for a couple of reasons. First, it's based on what are called BISAC codes, a categorization system for books. The problem with it is that it's somewhat arcane and is quite out of date. We've been working w/ an industry group to get them updated, but even then they are more suited to people in bookstores for shelving than they are for humans. Secondly, except for the "Programming" category, it just wasn't used. I think this is because it made it very hard for people to find our content.

      But you've given me some things to think about, and I greatly appreciate that.

      Regards, --Allen
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  • sarahkim (Official Rep) July 18, 2008 17:35
    Hi,

    I wanted to let you know that based on your feedback and similar comments from other customers we have decided to put our old topic navigation back on the oreilly.com homepage - below the new navigation.

    We really appreciate the time you took to detail your concerns. We will continue to look for ways to improve oreilly.com and always welcome your feedback.

    Sarah
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