LitApp review: WATERSTONES

Who, what, where?

The official iPhone and iPad app from Waterstones. The app’s page states that it’s an easy-to-use creation that allows you to order books, leave and read reviews and browse by various genres and charts.

 

On the surface

Even before I really got started I accidentally found out that the loading screens differ each time the app is launched (I managed to do this by mistakenly clicking my Home button!). There are (as far as I’m aware) four different screens available. Alongside the iconic white W, there’s a purple sparkly one, an x-rayed one and a multicoloured one. I do like the attention that’s been paid to this. To me, the screens signify the plethora of genres available, from glitzy fiction through to scientific fact and children’s literature. Perhaps that’s just me…? Either way, it’s a nice touch.

 

 

Quick content review

Then you get to the home screen. The layout of this screen is very simple – all clear lines and gentle colours:

I found that the pick reel at the top is a neat and tidy way to truly get at-a-glance information. I tried out the location service by tapping on “Your nearest Waterstone’s is…” and it found my local Brighton branch with no problems at all. Satisfied that, should I need to, I could visit or phone Brighton using the information provided, I moved on to look at the categories.

The screen on the left is what you get, unsurprisingly, when you click on Genres. I myself tend to err towards Fiction, so I went with that. I went through to a big scrollable list of the books available. It’s kind of like being on one of those mobile ladders in libraries, except you’re going vertically.

You will notice that there’s a Basket icon provided. I didn’t purchase anything using the app, so I can’t speak for its success or failure. Still, it’s a nifty way of getting a book fix quick, I should imagine. Furthermore, the public ratings on the app page don’t mention any issues with the feature. (If you have, by chance, a Basket error story, send it to me.)

Onward I went to Fiction, wherein I selected a completely random choice. This happened to be the second in Ken Follett’s Century trilogy, Winter of the World. This is where the app comes into its own as a Matryoshka doll of knowledge. It’s handy to have useful information like the synopsis and reviews in one place. One small thing that irritated me is how scrolling down the reviews doesn’t make the whole page move up. Instead the review moves up inside its little box, causing you to have to keep scrolling whilst keeping your thumb free of the writing. It’s something that most people will be able to look past, however, so pay little mind to my pedantry!

Unfortunately, there was one big problem with the app. You’ll have seen the Offers tab on the Home screen – or at least, us penniless students will always hone in on that first. However, when I clicked on it, this happened:

Oh dear. Now, if it’s the case that there are no promotions, that would be understandable. I think if that were the case, something other than an error message should come up – something more indicative of the actual cause, just a one-line, “Sorry, no promotions are available at present.” But this isn’t the case at all. I checked against the Offers page on the website – and lo and behold, offers a-plenty. Pertinently, there’s 30% off fiction titles at the time of going to press, an offer I would like to take advantage of. I know the app is free, but for such a high-profile retailer, mistakes like this don’t go down well.

 

Extra perks

It’s free! Also, I like the allowance for seeing Top Pre-Orders (accessible from the Home screen) – it’s a cheeky little way of seeing the reading habits of others, and who doesn’t like that?

 

Overall rating

I found that it’s like essentially holding a miniature Waterstones in your palm – and that’s what I expected, so great job, Waterstones!. Were it not for the Offers error and the irritating way the reviews are chopped off, the app would get a full five stars. Alas.

★★★★☆

 

The Waterstones app is free and you can get it here.

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About fictavia

Fictavia (noun): writer, critiquer of the publishing world and witty reviewer.

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