Site update: Buying books with multi-ISBN

by Angus Whiston
by Angus Whiston

Education UmbrellaOne of the most interesting aspects of an online business like Education Umbrella is that it’s constantly possible to gain new insights into how customers want to shop.

Some while ago it became clear that, at certain times of year and amongst certain audiences (school librarians in particular), the standard e-Commerce model of search-compare-select wasn’t always a perfect fit when buying school books.

Looking at the anonymised website data, we were consistently seeing sizeable school book orders which were composed entirely of ISBN searches (yielding a single result), every one of which was added directly to the basket. We know that these kind of repetitive actions make for very bored teachers, and set out to improve the process – after all, that’s what computers are for.

So you’ll now find that, to the right of the search box or when you begin typing an ISBN, you are prompted to explore the new “multi-ISBN search” mode.

education umbrella multi-ISBN

You’ll be taken to an intelligent search box into which you can copy and paste (from a spreadsheet or word document, for instance) up to 50 ISBNs, separated by a comma, semicolon or new line. From here, you can:

  • add all the products directly to your basket
  • change the global quantity (e.g. if you want three copies of each book)
  • change individual quantities (e.g. if you only want three of some books)
  • add all the products to a shortlist to save for later or send to a colleague
  • easily identify any products that aren’t available

(By the way – as intelligent as the search is, if you’re usually keen on typing ISBNs in a particularly idiosyncratic way, such as 978-123-456-7891, it won’t bring back any results, it’s better to keep them simple: 9781234567891. See below for the particulars.)

We can see that the average time to make and complete a school book order composed via multiple repetitive ISBN searches has up until now been an arduous 19 minutes! We’ll be interested to see how this changes over the coming weeks with the introduction of the new multiple-ISBN tool.


Frequently asked questions:

Does this work on iPad?

While the site works across all devices, the multi-ISBN feature doesn’t currently appear on iPad and iPhone. This is something we’re looking at adding, but as it stands most of you who need to place a multiple-ISBN style order are still opting to do so on a computer.

Why can I only search for 50 ISBNs at a time?

The multi-ISBN search pulls in its results from a vast database. Looking at average usage and in order to keep this process relatively quick we decided to cap it at 50. However, you can always repeat the process, adding 50 products to your basket at a time.

I’ve searched for ISBNs but they’re not appearing?!

Remember that tricky formatting stuff we referred to earlier? An ISBN can be pasted in a number of ways – for example, “ISBN:978 1408517086” is ok, “978 1408517086” is ok and “9781408517086” is great. Problems will occur when an ISBN is written with multiple spaces or hyphens. So “978 1408 5170 86”, “978-140-851-7086” and “ISBN:978 140 8517 086” are NOT ok. (PS – The quote marks in these examples are for clarity, you don’t need them when you search!)

How do I update the quantity of all the products?

If you need to order the same number of every title, just type a number in the “Qty” box above the search results. The numbers will update automatically when you click away from the box.

How do I update the quantity of a particular product(s)?

In the “Qty” box beside the relevant search result, enter the number you require and it will update automatically.


Update 22/11/14:

In case you’re interested in how the new multi-ISBN tool has been functioning, we thought we’d give you a brief update.

Well, only one month after launch, 10% of all our transactions now use the multiple-ISBN search feature, and our previous average order time of 19 minutes for these kinds of orders has dropped to only 6:30 (on average)!

We’ve heard in person from quite a number of you how much easier and quicker this is making the process of ordering school or library books (something which, let’s face it, you rarely want to savour slowly) – well, we’re delighted to have helped.
Remember to contact us let us know if you have any suggestions for the website or any other ways to make your life easier – we’d love to hear from you.


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