I recently experienced a technical problem with an eBook I had purchased from a small publisher, BeWrite Books. I found the contact details of the publisher on their website, emailed off the details of my error (I could not open the book on my device) and waited.
Within half an hour (about 9:30pm in my local time) I received an email from the publisher (who, it turns out, was in France) containing an apology and three new versions of the file (in case my preferred ePUB one didn’t work there were 2 alternative formats) plus some helpful advice about software I could use to manage books for my eReader and suggestions on where on the web I would find information about using my device. I was also offered my choice of other titles from the publisher’s digital catalogue to make up for my inconvenience and even when I said there was no need for such a thing I was sent 2 free books anyway. For the record, the new version of the file worked a treat.
I also recently experienced a technical problem with an eBook I had purchased from a major Australian bookseller (to avoid legal difficulties we’ll call them Hoarders). I used the contact form on their website to detail the error (the book had not been made available in my eLibrary on their website) and waited.
Within a 30 minutes I had received an auto-generated
‘thanks, your enquiry has been received by our customer care team and will be attended to shortly’
email. Despite the fact it was the start of the business day when I filled out the form I heard nothing from an actual person until the following working day, which was 3 calendar days later. Their response was to say
‘the book is now available in your eLibrary and ‘the ticket’ is closed.
When I wrote back to say the book was not now available in my eLibrary I received a message saying
‘oh there is a technical glitch’ (as if they hadn’t even checked previously) and the book really, truly will be available for you within 24 hours’.
Once again ‘the ticket’ was closed. When the book was not available 26 hours later I asked for a refund (figuring I had waited long enough for my ‘instant’ download) and was told
‘it will take 3 business days for the refund to be applied and screw you’.
OK they didn’t actually say screw you but I swear I heard them think it.
My point is not purely to compare and contrast good and bad service. My point is to say to the Australian publishing and bookselling industry that I have had enough of your constant moaning about the need for government protection of your industry because the internet/amazon/bogeyman are killing your business. They’re not. You are.
Hoarders is Australia’s only mainstream retailer of eBooks and is one of only two bookstore chains that has bricks & mortar stores in most states. Here are just a few of the things that I can think of, off the top of my head, that are wrong with Hoarders
- The standard RRP on new release physical books in its bricks & mortar stores is $4.00 more than the publisher’s RRP (and for those of you overseas that’s $36.99 at Hoarders for a trade paperback versus $32.99 at other stores which in itself is more than double what people in the UK or US routinely pay for non-discounted new releases)
- The online store would appear to have been designed by someone who hasn’t purchased a product since 1973 and who hasn’t even the business sense to wander over to the competition and copy what they’re doing. For example you can’t browse the store in any meaningful way such as alphabetically by author within a genre (though you can browse by price brackets which roughly translate into ‘cheap crap you’ve never heard of” and ‘everything else’) and there are no basic features like a wishlist/save for later button.
- The gift cards they sell online require the most convoluted post-purchase activation process I have ever encountered (requiring the deciphering of a grammatically bankrupt set of instructions, the sending of emails and deciphering of jargon-filled responses and the offering of one’s first-born child in a fiery sacrifice)
- They don’t ‘get’ service. In my recent example (only one of several poor experiences I have had with Hoarders) all they needed to do to have me saying positive things about them was email me a copy of the eBook I had paid for or offer an immediate apology and refund. Instead, there were emails full of jargon which used the palest grey font colour available so the emails were barely readable and a tone which made it clear Hoarders operates on the premise that they have to weed out all the lying customers before they’ll even try to resolve an issue. Why did they keep ‘closing the ticket’ without checking the problem was actually resolved? Why was it always up to me to prompt them to take the next step in the resolution process rather than them being proactive by saying, for example, we’ll let you know when the book as been added to your eLibrary? Why did it take 30 seconds to take my money but 3 days to give it back?
I once ordered a shipment of several physical books from Amazon that didn’t arrive and when I reported this to Amazon they immediately dispatched a new set of books and never once accused me of being a lying piece of pond scum in the entire process.
Are Hoarders and other Australian booksellers in danger from the internet/amazon/bogeyman? You bet they are but not just because those things exist. It’s because finally, after years of being ripped off and treated poorly we have access to genuine competition on price, service and range of products.
So, screw you Hoarders.