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January 2, 1998

Book Smarts

THE WEB HAS more bookstores than any mall around, but price-shopping online isn't much easier than schlepping across Tysons Corner. First you have to look up prices and calculate the various shipping options at one site, then open another window to crunch the numbers at a different site and finally compare the two costs. Acses, a new site from Ludwigsburg, Germany-based software developers Muenchhoff & Janz GmbH, might be a better option. Just name your book (by author, title, keyword or-eek!-ISBN number) and specify your continent and currency, and in a few seconds the site spits out prices from up to 23 retailers, including costs for available shipping methods. In practice, you're likely to get quotes for only a few shops, as delivery costs for stores outside North America throw them off the charts. And you may not see much variation in prices either; the capitalist system seems to work too well in the online-bookstore market, squashing prices to pretty much the same level everywhere. My test queries never yielded discounts of more than a buck or two off the prices at Barnes & Noble or - Rob Pegoraro

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