Sep 28, 2010

E-book bonanza... or maybe not.

I may have mentioned that I recently received a Sony ereader, a PRS 505 to be specific.  It looks exactly like the one in the picture.  It has been welded to me arm for the last four days(no not really but close).

I will go on about the e-reader in another post.

Sell me e-books!
Though I got the reader to access the multitude of free books via the various Gutenberg sites, I did plan to take advantage of the cheaper e-book in the future. So with that in mind I decided to check out the Australian e-book suppliers Borders and Angus & Robertson.  These two booksellers have teamed up with Kobo, with it's readers and a dedicated backend for the sale of ebooks.  Borders is also selling the new sony readers (the PRS 650 and 350).

My plan was to download a free e-book to test the ease with which a purchase could be achieved.  This began a journey that was reminiscent of the labours of Hercules.

2 hours later
I spent two hours downloading software, adding ebooks to my account which didn't appear in my elibrary( the holding space for your e-books) or if they did, could not be downloaded. I scanned forums and help files that weren't that helpful. I sent two email requests outlining the software, reader and books I was looking at.  I received 2 automated emails with a promise of the matter being dealt with in at the most 2 days time.

No second chances
I am a former customer service trainer for an online multinational. First impressions in a competitive market are everything.  Customers expect that if you are selling something that they should be able to buy it, and get it instantly(as per the Instant Download advertising on the website).  When you are trying to get booklovers to use a new technology you need to make the implementation smooth and idiot proof.

The situation occurring at Borders and A&R appears to have been going on for the last 2 months( if you check the queries at the Borders forums) with some customers not receiving books they have paid for up to 2 weeks later(Mobile Read forums).

Book Depository to the rescue
Disgruntled after wasting my time on books I could have download from the Gutenberg Project in two clicks I decided to check out the Book Depository.  I recently purchased The Case of the Pope in paperback from them ($9 and 9 days to get to me - from the UK) so I was a happy return customer.

So I checked out their ebooks, the website was so intuitive that I ended up buying the Killing Floor by Lee Childs, paying via paypal, and having my file downloaded in 2 clicks.

What are they thinking?
I would be very concerned if I was in charge of this new Australian e-book venture.  Most people wouldn't have waited 10 seconds let alone spent 2 hours fiddling around.  Do the big booksellers think they can stuff this up, that they can live off customer loyalty, off their brand?  I think there is room here for small technically literate book selling companies to step in and provide fast, simple, service.

I will be shopping at Book Depository for my next e-book, I won't be returning to Borders or A&R unless its in my interest to do so.

Have you had similar experiences?  Have you got any favourite small publishers or book sellers who are providing top notch service on e-books?

Edit: Sometime this afternoon I was able to see the books I had selected my elibrary at Borders.  I can't download them however as they say they are Desktop only - presumably meaning that its only available to read through the Kobo desktop app(this despite being advertised as epub).  I also commenced a search for free ebooks under the mobile/epub category but each of the titles that came up did not include epub.  


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