Bookseller Barnes & Noble launched a new how-to site this morning called Quamut. Like About.com, the aim is to provide simple instructional pieces about all subjects from barbecue to bourbon (currently the most popular tag on the site). Today there are more than 1,000 topics, but the goal is to add several hundred a month while updating items as time goes by.
Unlike Wikipedia, and other wiki-based how-to services the content is provided not by the crowds, but a small group of hand-picked human editors--similar to Mahalo.com. The guides are copy edited and fact checked, then categorized into one of five genres.
Despite all this automation, users aren't entirely left out. Articles can be tagged and bookmarked. There's also a Wiki-based sister site that lets users create their own how-to guides, although these aren't integrated into Quamut's content listings or search results.
To make money off Quamut, Barnes & Noble has gone with business model that combines ads and print media. There are regular ads that make their way next to the content, including links to (guess what) books for sale on each subject directly from Barnes & Noble. Users can also purchase a copy of the content for home use or reference as either a digital PDF copy or a laminated chart that details each step. Why you'd want these is pretty straight-forward: there's no print button, and articles are split up into over a dozen pages sometimes--keeping you from saving each article in its entirety as a PDF (unless you're patient). The PDFs are also in full color and pretty snazzy looking. You can check out today's example after the break.
In many ways Quamut reminds me a lot of About.com before it got cluttered up with too much advertising and a disjointed and overwhelming navigation system. This is a site I could send my mom to without worrying about her getting lost or overwhelmed--which is what I think the creators were going for.
See also: eHow