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Online catalogs making mark as preferred method of commerce


As a kid, the coming of fall meant the arrival of the winter editions of the toy-filled catalogs from the big mail-order stores -- Sears and Penneys were tops on my personal list.

But nowadays, businesses seem to be quickly porting their print catalogs to the World Wide Web.

Some businesses, including Hardin County's own U.S. Cavalry, actually has offers more merchandise online than in the printed catalog.

But not all online catalogs are created equal, but here are a few of the favorites I've used lately.

GIZMOS @ LEVENGER. My wife has long dismissed my preoccupation with gizmos and gadgets as "just a guy thing."

While I once resented her sweeping generalization, I've come to realize that it's closer to the truth than I wanted to admit.

This revelation came to me recently as I was entering my second hour of surfing at the Levenger Web site, found online at www.levenger.com.

Their slogan, "Tools For Serious Readers," tells only part of the story of what they sell on their Web site and in their popular printed catalogs.

Their wares run the gamut, from desk accessories (like Art Deco paper clip holders) to unique furniture (including a reproduction of a portable desk designed by Thomas Jefferson).

The one thing you don't notice about Levenger's online catalog is the interface of the Web site itself.

Levenger's site is fast, intuitive to navigate through, and well designed. If you're a fan of gizmos or gadgets, or looking for a gift for someone who is, Levenger's Web site is the first place to stop.

Point your browser to http://levenger.com.

GROW IT @ BURPEE. Dry weather aside, most gardeners I've talked to are trying to put this drought behind them and look ahead to next spring. But don't overlook fall planting; there's still plenty of possiblities to consider.

My favorite paper gardening catalog is also one of my favorite online catalogs as well.

Seed and plant supplier Burpee, with the Burpee.com Web site, has moved fall plants, vegetables, bulbs and other plantings into their own category for easy browsing.

It only took a couple of mouse clicks to find the blueberry plants I'm thinking of adding to our landscaping. They're even offering a sale-priced four-varieties-in-one combo package that will insure good pollination.

I've ordered from their online store before, and I can attest to their speedy delivery and accuracy. Now if only my Burpee spring-planted thornless blackberries survive this summer's drought, maybe I'll get to enjoy the "fruits" of my Web surfing this time next year.

GOOD USE OF THE WEB. Every now and then someone takes a Web site and does something really unique and useful with it.

This week's example is www.eboard.com.

EBoard allows anyone, anywhere to build a "Virtual Corkboard," -- or bulletin board -- on which users can attach or post yellow "sticky notes." These notes can be memos, reminders, appointments -- even photographs and graphics.

Simple ideas and concepts often find ways of becoming more difficult to implement; not so with the eBoard.com Web site.

And you can use an eBoard to fill a variety of needs.

Looking for a home base for friends and family who want to share notes and news? Or how about an easy-to-update bulletin board for you and your co-workers?

The eBoard you create can be configured in any number of ways to allow others to respond to your notes, create their own notes, or just read the notes posted. Password protection is optional.

If you're curious about how eBoard.com works, you can visit an eBoard I've already created.

Once you arrive at www.eboard.com, simply type in "jimsworld" in the "Enter an eBoard" window and click "Go!"

This test eBoard was created without requiring a password. If you decide to create your own (it's simple to do), you can require a password if you wish.

Users get 1 Megabyte of storage space with their free eBoard.

According to eBoard, they're working on new features and options to make the site more useful, including a calendar, file attachments and more.

KIDS RULE SCHOOL. Web site addresses on labels and packaging are no longer the novelty they once were back in 1995. In fact, they're so common it's surprising to not find one on a label on whatever product you buy in the grocery store.

And as you can imagine, I wasn't really surprised when my first-grader handed me a cardboard cut-out from a cereal box with a Web site address she wanted us to visit together -- www.youruleschool.com.

YouRuleSchool.com is a promotional site for General Mills' products like Nestle Quik, Lucky Charms, Cheerios and more.

If you take time to visit the site, your kids will enjoy the cartoonish and pulsing graphics decorating the site.

A conga line of Trix cereal dances between boxes of Nestle Quik as the site's name flashes above a cool-looking school building.

To use the site, kids must sign in with a name ("Make it funny!" implores the Trix Rabbit) to receive a free "locker combination" that will be used as a password on return visits. No other information on users is collected.

Despite the rebellious-sounding name, the site doesn't implore kids to take control of their school. It reminds young Web surfers on the opening screen that "your parents still rule your home, so ask them if it's OK before downloading anything off this site."

The site has plenty of activities for kids, both educational and entertainment -- the room names say it all: The Yumnasium, Rad Science Room, Laugh-E-Teria and more.

General Mills' products and characters (The Trix Rabbit, the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and others) are featured throughout the site, which serves as an advertisement and a familiar point of reference for kids.

Sure it's blatant advertising, but according to my six-year-old, it's still "pretty cool" stuff (and more fun than reading cereal boxes like her dad).

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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