If you're looking for an example of a complex e-commerce shop, look no further than an online book sales website. These are some of the challenges that we faced during the building of the LAPA Publishers - Penguin Books Random House online book store.
However, since we have been working on LAPA’s online sales presence for the past 10-years, we were ready for the challenges ahead.
What appears to be a simple task of listing some books for sale, quickly becomes a quagmire of exceptions and what ifs. At minimum the following integrations are required:
- ERP system
- Digital rights management (DRM) system
- Electronic book readers
- Payment gateway
Electronic Book Complexity
By way of example, take any popular novel today, it is expected to be available in printed or electronic form. Then imagine the very real possibility of both forms of these books sharing a shopping basket. When this happens, it creates a small horror show for e-commerce developers, causing complexity both during and after checkout.
During checkout, the commerce platform needs to sort physical from electrical and then make a call to the courier for a shipping quote for only the physical items. The resulting delivery price is then surfaced as part of the basket costing.
Also at this stage, stock levels are crucial for printed books and irrelevant for electronic versions. The stock level check at checkout relies on another integration into the book sellers ERP system. (In LAPA’s case, we have a stock level and pricing update that runs hourly, synching values from their Pastel Evolution ERP system.)
Post Checkout with DRM Tokens
After checkout, it becomes the turn of the e-books to require special treatment. In this case, calls must be made to the DRM system, presenting the ISBN number for each title and requesting a DRM token that uniquely identifies the title purchased.
DRM tokens need to be used in two places. First, they have to be sent with the order confirmation/invoice. Here, the tokens are added to a link that will authorise opening the title (e-pub) with the book reader that the customers uses to read it.
Then, for future use, the token and link need to be added to the customer's profile. This will give the customer access to the publications he or she has purchased when moving to a new smartphone or other device.
Of, course besides all the technical challenges, there were the usual design issues. As a starting point we were requested to use the website of Penguin Random House Australia as a cornerstone design cue. The quality of this site consistently challenged our designers, triumphed in the end as is evident when browsing the LAPA website, either on mobile or any a large-scale desktop monitor.