I learned something new about book editions on Tuesday.
My little lesson actually began a couple of months ago when I purchased a hardcover edition of James Patterson‘s 1st to Die. I had found it on the bargain table at a local bookstore for just $4.98, a price that I don’t mind paying for a hardcover, when paperbacks generally run about seven bucks!
When I was half-way through the book, I was at the bookstore again and found Patterson’s 3rd Degree on another bargain table for the same price, so I quickly scooped up that bargain, too.
Patterson has produced a variety of books that focus on different characters, but these two are part of a series of three that focus on the “Women’s Murder Club,” four serial characters who collaborate to solve crimes. If you know me, you already know that I’m just anal-retentive enough that if I have the first and third books in hardcover, I want the second one in hardcover as well.
The local bookstores told me that they couldn’t get the second book, 2nd Chance, in hardcover anymore. For some reason, there was apparently a surplus for the first and third books, but not one for the second. That led me to Amazon.com, where I found the hardcover edition at $16.65.
That was more than I wanted to pay, of course, but I considered that for roughly the cost of one of the books at full issue price, I would have all three, so I went ahead and ordered the book.
Yesterday, the parcel arrived and as soon as I picked it up, I knew something was wrong. It was too light. I immediately thought, they must have sent me the paperback by mistake. I was almost right!
When I opened the box, I found that what I had received was basically a paperback with a glossy textbook cover. Instead of the heavy white paper used in hardcover editions, the paper inside was the lesser paperback quality, (and the book was so sloppily produced that some letters at the edge of some pages were just trimmed away). Instead of the hardback cover with a nice dust jacket, the dust jacket’s artwork was reproduced — again, sloppily — and scaled down to be printed on this hardcover. And instead of the hardcover size, it was literally the size of a paperback, as you can see in the photo! All of this for $16.65!
I was already fired up since I had just turned 35…so I was ready for a fight. I’ve never had a problem with Amazon.com before, and I quickly learned that it is impossible to reach them by telephone: you can send their customer service division an Email and wait a day for a reply, but that’s about it. When I arranged the return, they provided a printable return label, but informed me that since the return wasn’t “their fault,” I would be charged the amount of postage, and that it would be deducted from the refund they issue me.
Still suspicious about this ridiculous book, I called a local bookstore and described the “midget” book I had received. It turns out that this is a “library archive” edition. (I swear that I’ve checked out paperback editions at libraries that didn’t have hard covers!!) There is nothing inside the book that states that it is any kind of “library” edition. In fact, the printing information inside would suggest that it’s nothing more than a paperback.
I therefore E-mailed Amazon and explained that it was certainly not my fault that they misrepresented the book they were selling, and that I therefore expect a full refund. (I don’t expect to stop doing business with Amazon.com over this, because they do have good prices on DVDs and most books, but I’ll certainly think twice before ordering any book that’s not currently on the bookstore shelves!!) Their customer service representative informed me (by E-mail) that she’d make a note of it. Hmm…
Eventually, I was able to persuade Amazon.com to refund the whole amount including shipping, since it was their fault. I ordered the book from Books-A-Million a few weeks later, and got the same kind of miniature “library” book. Needless to say, I didn’t take it.
I did finally manage to get a copy of 2nd Chance in hardcover…I bought it used on eBay.