Update, May 13, 2016: We encourage you to check out Delphi again. The site assures us: “We have spent a considerable amount of time improving our new website and service, while restoring past purchases to our loyal customers’ new accounts and we feel that these blog posts are now no longer relevant to our new site, etc.”
I wrote earlier about the site issues facing Delphi Classics this week. I had some questions about some of the items in the email they sent to their customers yesterday, and Peter from Delphi Classics was kind enough to reply very promptly:
“Thank you for your email. It has been a very difficult time for us here lately! Unfortunately, last Friday our webhost company deleted from their servers the entire files of several websites, including the Delphi Classics store. This was an error which we had no control over. We have managed to salvage web page information, eBook files and other data, but all customer accounts and order details were lost. The server on which we stored the backups was also affected, losing the details of thousands of orders and accounts. We have been working hard over the last five days to build a completely new website, with improved performance and features, as well as a more secure location. Sadly, we are simply unable to restore your previous account details and you will need to create a new account to make a new order. When registering a new account, you can re-use the same username and password if you would like.”
Peter goes on to clarify a few points I wanted his feedback on.
Q. Why are they asking for order numbers for customers with past purchases?
A. They have local backups of all saved emails, and can match up your order info upon request for books which get updated in the next 12 months. If you don’t know the order number, they can find it for you; but if you do, that will be faster and easier for them and will expedite the restoration of that book.
Q. What happens once the promised 12 months of updates is done? Will customers have to repurchase any books which weren’t updated in that time?
A. The short answer: yes, they will. Peter says: “I know this is frustrating. We want to help customers more, but we regret this is the best we can offer. An update service is not an indefinite service we can offer ‘forever’, especially considering the very low price we charge for our products and the generous special offers we also give. But we will help customers with new updates from now until next January.”
Q. How can customers be assured that their new accounts will be safe from future problems?
A. Peter says: “Only the back ups of our site itself, customer data and accounts were completely wiped. Let me assure you, this has been an absolute nightmare for us over the last week and was by no means intentional on our part. We have now implemented a new system where all our website data and records are backed up and stored in multiple locations, locally and on different web hosts. We sincerely apologize that this has happened. This is a very unfortunate situation, without an easy solution. But we are trying our best to put things right. We shall continue to run special offers for customers with huge savings over the coming months.”
My response: I want to thank Peter and his team for their quick response, both to my email and to their customers in trying to get the site up and running again as quickly as possible. I can only imagine what a nightmare this must have been for them, and I empathize with what they must be facing on their end.
With that said, I am not completely satisfied with their response. Specifically, I think the one-year time limit on the updates is completely unfair. It doesn’t matter that this wasn’t their fault. It doesn’t matter that the books will be inexpensive to purchase again. When customers bought these books, they were presented as unfinished versions which would be added to over time as new works enter the public domain in the customer’s country, and as errors are flagged and corrected. Customers should be entitled to the ongoing service they were promised.
When Fictionwise went bust, I lost cloud access to over 400 books, which I had thankfully backed up myself and still could use. But those books were sold to me as finished products. Yes, it irked me that my American sister could transfer them all to a new B&N account with no questions asked but I, in Canada, could not. But that’s all it was, an annoyance—I had my local copies and the books were published, sold and done. But that’s not what is going on here. These books were specifically sold with the expectation that updates would be available at any time for past purchasers, and I am disappointed that Delphi Classics won’t honor that request.
I appreciate that this was an unexpected calamity and that restoring everyone’s stuff would be a lot of work for them. But I want them to appreciate that for me, my books are an investment. I could pay $2.99 to replace a single book and it wouldn’t break me, but I own nearly their entire catalog—the poets series, the art series, and many of the complete works collections. A small sum to replace, multiplied by the quantity of books a frequent customer like me might buy, is not such a small sum anymore.
I know that restoring everyone’s purchases will take time, and I can be patient if I have to wait for it. But I’d like it to be done. With all due respect to Peter, I am going to mail him a list of all the books I know I have, and ask him to send me the coupon codes now, in one fell swoop. Once I know that all my past purchases are safe, and not just the ones they deign to update in the next 12 months, then I will think about becoming a customer again.
I agree completely with this – I also feel that this new 12 month ‘take it or leave it’ offer is out of order. In addition I’ve been buying Delphi releases since 2011 and I don’t keep the confirmation emails. I did email Delphi to say that my PayPal receipts could prove which collections I have bought in the past, but that was ignored in their responses to me.
The cynic in me thinks that this is just a bit too convenient, and that the promises of upgrades were just becoming too much for them to deal with. I wonder if any of the collections released up until now will be upgraded until the 12 month deadline is passed? I’m disappointed in thinking that, so will try not to let it spoil my previously good thoughts about the company.
Anyway I will be very interested in any future responses you get from Delphi.
Update: I followed up with Peter to express my disappointment, and I got this reply:
The update service is a free service we offer customers, which is very time consuming process for us, but we like to offer the customers the opportunity of free updates. We cannot guarantee this service forever – it is a benefit of purchasing from us that we like to offer. The actual eBook that customers download is what customers have purchased, not the update service. Personally, we don’t consider our eBooks unfinished. They are the product of many hours of work and are presented in the most complete condition possible at the time. They are very low cost and they contain thousands of pages.
If a customer buys a print version of the complete works of Shakespeare, and a second edition is released a year later, they don’t receive it for free. The first edition wasn’t unfinished. The second edition simply has more or improved content. Fortunately with eBooks updating is a lot easier, but it still costs our company a lot of time and money. We never realised this could happen and regret that the update system cannot be offered for the lost accounts after next January. Nevertheless, customers still have the eBooks they purchased at the time of sale; it is just we cannot offer the updates service for the lost accounts for an indefinite period. We aim to offer updates for new purchases, striving to make sure this will never happen again. But we have never ‘promised’ this updates service can continue indefinitely.
We are sorry we cannot help more than this, but there is no other solution when dealing with the complexity of orders and different customers accounts.
I want to reiterate once again that I am very unhappy with this response. I will not be recommending this store to others anymore. They may not have uttered the words ‘updates are guaranteed forever and ever’ per se, but they certainly strongly implied it. For example, the Verne book had many pieces in it for which no English translation existed in the public domain, and they put them in in French anyway and has an asterisk that said when the translations would be available, they would be added. They never said ‘if this happens within the next year.’ They never had any fine print fixing this to a time limit or a condition. Customers were led to believe that once they bought it, they could re-download the updated version AT ANY TIME.
I realize this website fiasco was not their doing, but it was not MY doing either, and I do feel they have an obligation to make this right for me. I don’t think they are doing so with the offer they’ve made.
“We aim to offer updates for new purchases, striving to make sure this will never happen again. But we have never ‘promised’ this updates service can continue indefinitely.”
They may not have promised it outright, but they certainly implied it…
From their website back in October…
“As more and more texts enter the public domain, we are constantly updating and revising our Complete Works titles. We also frequently add bonus texts and illustrations to our eBooks, as well as monitoring the quality of the texts and correcting errors. In our pursuit of providing complete editions of the world’s greatest writers, we welcome customer feedback and suggestions.
Purchasing texts directly from our online shop means you can access your downloads at any time from the My Account section. So, if we update a title you’ve already purchased from us, you can click on its link in the My Account section and download the most recent version… absolutely free!”
Amazon reviews might be a good place to begin to voice our protests and warn potential new customers about the shady doings of the publisher. Spreading the word best I can.
I just don’t see how a vendor is willing to burn all of their past customers like this.
So dishonest and unprofessional.
I’ll stick with other companies from now own, as there are MANY to choose from who wouldn’t shaft their customers like this.