In comparing the availability of ten New York Times bestselling-books across the online bookstores we reviewed, Books-a-Million tied with Barnes & Noble for our #2 spot. In addition to print, ebooks and audio books, Books-a-Million also offers magazines, gift items, toys and NOOK ereader devices. We did, however, find Books-a-Million’s pricing to be inconsistent: some of its titles were the highest we saw, and others were the lowest.
Books-a-Million’s site is easy-to-read and lists helpful plot synopses, editorial reviews and details about each title it carries. It also includes some helpful user features, like the ability to email their Personal Shopper service for help selecting books for those hard-to-shop-for loved ones – just send a little information about their likes and hobbies, as well as how much you’d like to spend, and a Books-a-Million staffer will get back to you with a few suggestions. There is also an option to include free video messages with books sent as gifts.
Again rivaling Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million’s membership program offers excellent benefits. Called the Millionaire’s Club, the program entitles members to free shipping on certain items, 40% off Books-a-Million’s current hardcover bestsellers, 20% off designated hardcover titles, 10% off other select titles and advance notice of in-store sales. It costs just $25 annually to join the Millionaire’s Club.
Books-a-Million also supports the US Armed Forces and their families through its Books for Troops program. This includes sending books to active service members stationed overseas or in military hospitals, as well as to veterans and children of service members. You can choose which books you’d like to be donated to a service member, veteran or child – then Books-a-Million will ship them to the appropriate parties. Books-a-Million covers the shipping costs but you will have to pay for the books, though some of them are discounted.
An obvious oversight of Books-a-Million’s site is the inability to easily locate a book in-store. Books-a-Million has 250 stores in 31 US states, and it would be very helpful to users if Books-a-Million included an option to find the nearest store that carries the title they’re looking for. However, the only way to check in-store inventory is to call, which is much more time-consuming.
Books-a-Million’s search functionality is also fairly inconvenient. The search results are accurate and easy to read, yes, but you’ll need to do separate searches for print or ebook versions of the same title. Most of the sites we reviewed will pull up all versions of a title that they carry, which is much more appealing than having to search multiple times if you’d be willing to purchase a book in either print or audio, for example. If you’re like some of our reviewers who switch between reading print, ebook and audio, you may find searching titles on Books-a-Million to be a bit of a hassle. In addition, you’re limited to refining searches – there is no Advanced Search feature.