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Old 10-16-2010, 02:02 AM   #1
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Unresponsive Publishers

I purchase quite a few books from the Sony Store, and I've complained about just two of them. I can put up with a lot, but the two books in question were unreadable and I wanted my money back.

For the first one (Dry by Augusten Burroughs), I called Sony and was referred to the publisher. I emailed and called the publisher and got no response. This wasn't such a big deal, because the problem was that the font was ridiculously small, so I could simply liberate it and fix the damn thing myself. The second book (The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens) had no quotation marks, apostrophes or dashes. It was totally unreadable. I called Sony and did get credit when I told them that referring me to the publisher would not work this time. I then emailed the publisher (a long time ago). I got no response, and I just re-downloaded the book from the Sony site and it still isn't fixed! I can't be the only one who has complained and I can't believe they haven't either stopped selling the epub or fixed it. No human could have looked at a single page of it before they put it up for sale. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE??
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Old 10-16-2010, 03:46 AM   #2
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I'd guess that it's a matter of the email getting lost in cyberspace and of course limited manpower to correct the error. It sounds like when you brought your problem to a real person rather than just relying on the email you got more of a response. They probably get hundreds of emails daily and so a few can get buried by accident. Just a guess though as to if that is what happened. As far as checking it maybe they did and it was ok and something screwed up during the upload to their catalog?
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Old 10-16-2010, 04:31 AM   #3
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Too many publishers (and oddly enough, the bigger the house the more likely the flaws) are cutting corners by amateurishly and sloppily auto-converting from bad files (often, it seems to me from files to-pint) and not proofing and correcting the result.

Another cost-cutting measure, of course, is on admin and customer service. The bigger the house the less the experience of direct contact with the reading public, traditionally having left high street brick-and-mortar retalers and sales teams deal with the flak.

The house-to-reader approach is one thing smaller houses like our own have going for us. We can't afford deaf ears to readers and fault-blindness to our ebook versions.

You are more likely to get a response and see a result, Superlucky, by emailing the author or his agent than a major house. They still carry a little clout with the industry big boys.

Cheers. Neil
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Old 10-16-2010, 07:10 AM   #4
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neilmarr, you are exactly right! Again, another fine reason why I like small house press. You're not treated as a number (did I mention that it's not just authors who are treated like cattle by the big houses!?), but rather a person. The biggest issue with corporations is that once they hit a certain size, they stop caring, mostly because they get into that mentality of "You're just one person out of millions. Nobody will miss you if you're gone. If you leave there will be 5 more who will step in and replace you." That's just not right!
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Old 10-16-2010, 08:06 AM   #5
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By all means complain to the publisher. But, despite what you were told, your redress is against Sony. If it's a question of insisting on your money back, that's a matter for the retailer. It's Sony that you have a contract with, not the publisher.

That said, it doesn't excuse the publisher from ignoring your complaint. If nothing else, they should have acknowledged it as a matter of courtesy.
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Old 10-16-2010, 09:03 AM   #6
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Hya Steve and Mike: Both excellent points.

Mike: The retailer is, without a doubt, directly responsible if he offers shoddy goods; just as much as if Sony was a butcher's shop and bought in bad meat to offer customers. They should have their own quality control in place, react immediately to consumer complains and demand improved quality from suppliers who provide faulty items for sale.

Steve: 'New Wave' publishing is about punblisher/author-consumer. No middle man beyond those supplying a shop window (which is what online stores do -- no face at the counter to shout at, just a display window). It is vital that publishers and authors keep an open ear to complaint, just as they so obviously do to praise.

I must confess that even my own wee house -- which launched ten years ago -- was at first guilty of treating ebooks as a bi-product of paperbacks; largely a promotional tool that we gave away willy-nilly and used to carpet-bomb reviewers.

We very soon caught on to the fact that they should be taken seriously and that simple PDF spin-off from for-print files was an insult to the growing e-reading community (where great potential lay) and changed tack. The big boys don't seem to have appreciated that yet.

Mind you, in defence of the large houses, it's easier to turn on a sixpence in a Mini Cooper-S than it is at the wheel of a juggernaut. I'm sure the ebook reader can look forward to better service in the future, when the biggies learn what the littlies already know: The customer is ALWAYS right.

If dead fish stink from the head down, likewise progress is made from the tail up.

Cheers. Neil

Last edited by neilmarr; 10-16-2010 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 10-16-2010, 03:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike L View Post
By all means complain to the publisher. But, despite what you were told, your redress is against Sony. If it's a question of insisting on your money back, that's a matter for the retailer. It's Sony that you have a contract with, not the publisher.
This is exactly why I wouldn't accept "contact the publisher" as a resolution the second time.

I did receive credit the second time I complained, but I was shocked that this was just a courtesy. Neither Sony nor Amazon have a return policy. You pay for a product you don't get to look at, and if it is defective you are stuck with it. That's a recipe for consumer abuse.

If this had happened in a p-bookstore, both books would have been removed from the shelves and the store would have insisted that the publisher replace them. As it is, both are still for sale at full price despite the store's (ostensible) awareness of the defects.

I am off to contact both authors (or their agents). This is an outrage!
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Old 10-16-2010, 03:17 PM   #8
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I think if you get no satisfaction from a publisher it *is* a good idea to contact the author or agent. Author's don't like to see their work messed up and may be able to lean on the publisher somewhat or get their agent to lean.

It's not a guarantee they can get it fixed, but I don't think it hurts to let them know, as they may, at least, be taken more seriously by the publisher when they complain.

I hate it when publishers put out shoddy ebooks. They should be taking the same care they do with a print book.
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Old 10-16-2010, 10:15 PM   #9
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In my recent damaged goods purchase, I contacted the seller, the publisher and the author. Which one of those three didn't respond to me? The publisher.

The author did say he would forward my letter to him, to the publisher. I'd expect that letter to get a lot more action than my letter to the publisher.

But if the publisher does not respond, they are only shooting themselves in the foot. With continued actions like that, the consumer base will eventually shun products by Big Pub, and go to the smaller and indie pubs that actually respond to customers.
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Old 10-16-2010, 10:20 PM   #10
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Of course, you can also get situations where indie authors also just don't seem to know-how-to or maybe care about their ebook looks, I'm going on faith and hoping more of the former. I believe a lot of people think they can just submit a MS-Word manuscript into a magical publishing site and it'll spit out a lovely eBook version.

Paul
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Old 10-17-2010, 06:37 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superlucky View Post
I did receive credit the second time I complained, but I was shocked that this was just a courtesy. Neither Sony nor Amazon have a return policy. You pay for a product you don't get to look at, and if it is defective you are stuck with it. That's a recipe for consumer abuse.
Superlucky, you don't mention which country you are in. But in most parts of the world, you would have a simple case against the seller under "sale of goods" laws or something similar.

It doesn't matter whether the seller has a "return polciy" or what that policy says. No unilateral policy can override the obligation of the seller to supply goods that are "fit for service and of merchantable quality". (I'm quoting from the UK legislation, but the principle applies everywhere.)

Of course, it would be impractical for the likes of you or I to sue Amazon or Sony. But in many countries that are consumer bureaux, trading standards officers, better business bureaux, or other agencies who might take action.

Apart from that, the best thing you can do is to complain bitterly, and alert others - which is exactly what you have done.
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:10 AM   #12
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With internet and forums like MobileRread where effective market research can be so effectively and simply done and consumer reaction assessed, I wonder which (if any) large houses keep tabs on such vital consumer forums as MR.

My move from huge mass-market publishing to my own small indie pretty well coincided with the opening of consumer forums, and they have been invaluable to me and my wee house.

But it takes time to keep abreast of trends and reactions. I suspect the big boys would rather do lunch.

Cheers. Neil
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Old 10-19-2010, 03:21 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Superlucky View Post
This is exactly why I wouldn't accept "contact the publisher" as a resolution the second time.

I did receive credit the second time I complained, but I was shocked that this was just a courtesy. Neither Sony nor Amazon have a return policy. You pay for a product you don't get to look at, and if it is defective you are stuck with it. That's a recipe for consumer abuse.
That's not true about Amazon, though. You can return anything within 7 days.

Quote:
Returning Kindle Content

Any content you purchase for Kindle from the Amazon Kindle store is eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within 7 days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, the item will be removed from Your Media Library and will no longer be readable on your Kindle. To request a refund and return, click the Customer Service button in the Contact Us box in the right-hand column of this page to reach us via phone or e-mail. Please make sure to include the title of the item you wish to return in your request.
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Old 10-19-2010, 03:35 AM   #14
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To add a brighter note to this thread: I recently bought Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold from Baen. There were some minor formatting problems, so I emailed Baen Customer Service. I got a response within a day or so, the problems were fixed, and I can download the updated version whenever I want.

I know this is exceptional service, but it's a good example for the rest of them to follow. Would that the big publishing firms would follow Neil's advice and have some of their staff join the forum.

Regards, Alex
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Old 10-19-2010, 05:49 AM   #15
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***Would that the big publishing firms would follow Neil's advice and have some of their staff join the forum***

Not just our staff, Alex. Many of our authors have adopted reading devices now and call by here regularly. Advice -- like your own several times -- has been priceless. All karma to ya. Neil
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