What Powell’s City of Books Can Teach Us About Digital Publishing, Part 1

Published by Gina Wentling | Topics: Associations, Content Strategy, Online Publishing

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iStock_000003943802 SmallerA few weeks ago, I took a vacation to the Pacific Northwest. Besides enjoying breath-taking views of Multnomah Falls outside of Portland (see bottom right), the iconic Pike Place Market and endlessly entertaining Underground Tour in Seattle, and the beautiful wedding of a dear friend, my husband and I browsed away a full morning at Powell’s City of Books.

Both avid readers, we could have spent several more days whiling away the hours, surrounded by countless tomes and thoughtfully-conceived displays. Plus, there’s just something about being in a bookstore that makes me feel whole and knowledgeable, like the wisdom of the ages is at my fingertips, if I reach out to grasp it.

Allow me to gush. According to its website, Powell’s being “the largest used and new bookstore in the world!” It occupies an entire city block and houses over one million books. In addition to its sheer volume, Powell’s is one of the most organized stores I’ve seen.

Powell’s is comprised of nine large, color-coded rooms, determined by genre. For example, the Gold Room (my husband’s favorite) contains science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and manga. I spent a lot of time in the Red Room (health, psychology, travel, and more) and the Orange Room (cooking, food, and, among others, sustainable living—we were in Portland, after all).

Browsing was a pleasure because the store was so well put together. You start at the room level, find the subject (say, music), locate the subsection (Classical), and home in on the location of the item you want (Complete Orchestral Score to Brahms’ Symphonies).

Does this process sound familiar? If you’re a regular reader of the blog and other Omnipress content, you may recognize this as a parallel description to faceted search. Rather than conducting a broad keyword search, you can winnow down results accurately and quickly. Using more considerations helps you find what you need, right now.Multnomah Falls

Because you probably don’t have the whole morning to look around a bookstore—or your content website—to find the right book, article, or abstract. Faceted search is the must-have for your digital publishing platform that you didn’t even know you wanted.

If you have a chance to spend a day at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, I highly recommend it. And don’t even get me started on Voodoo Doughnuts. Tune in next week for Part 2!


About Gina Wentling

During her time as Marketing Communications Coordinator (2013-16), Gina wrote hundreds of blog posts for Omnipress. Her work has also been published in association publications. Read More.

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