At What's With, we're strong supporters of traditional paper or hardback cover books, and we strongly believe that this is a field where the recycling spree of using as little paper as possible will not prevail eventually. It is that smell of paper and ink that gets you high and you want more and more of it. That is not to say that we don't use our tablets or Kindles to read our way through news and even the occasional cool script on BlackList. But the feeling of going through a bookstore with your special one, opening books over and over again trying to choose the next literary prey is unmatched - so it is with curiosity that we entered InkFlash, the Virtual Reality online bookstore that Matt Stephens and his team opened up last November.
Accompanied by a Twilight Zone-ish sound, you enter a hallway packed with all sorts of entrances organised by genre or, in case authors took the time and paid 10 pounds a month to have one, personalized chambers containing works of a certain author. We selected "Science & Nature", where we ran across Stephen Hawking's colossal "A Brief History of Time" - colossal not only on the hype of Eddie Redmayne's recent Oscar, which is anyway colossal in itself - and got directed to its specific descriptive page.
In a recent hosted article, Stephens told the tale behind InkFlash - it's not a replacement for bookshops and it cannot be perceived as such:
The real experience of a bookshop is the touch and smell of the books, the ambience as you step in from out of the rain or the noise of a city street, that rather awkward avoidance of eye contact with other shoppers; and, best of all, the return to your home with a carrier bag of prized new tomes. Any attempt to create an online version of that would be doomed before it got off the ground.
Instead, InkFlash creats a retina-sticking experience instead of a traditional online bookstore. Rooms depict atmospheres of the scenery in which the books are located. "The site is an ever-growing labyrinth of themed rooms; the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon exploring books, and discovering new authors along the way.", Stephens also adds.
InkFlash is easily shareable on social media- "room photos" may be tweeted and, who knows, get viral; also, the author's room may be packed with videos, new releases of hard/paperback covers and anything imaginable. And speaking of social media, the project is getting a lot of attention on Twitter, with more than 3,000 followers.
For idea novelty, we give them 4/5 - there are some competitors on this area.
For design, we give them 4/5 - the audio and video rendering is quite enticing.
For user experience, we give them 4/5 - scored high for getting us to click and click and click...
For potential to scale, we give them 4/5 - the fact that it's already featured
OVERALL GRADE: 4 out of 5. By connecting other e-bookstores as well - we're big fans of BookDepository and constant design improvement, this could be a hit.