iBook buyers beware – no refund or exchange even if your book has been updated!

images.jpgDouglas Cootey has a cautionary tale on his blog about his inablity to get a refund on an iBook that was replaced by a newer version.

Unfortunately, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card was a different matter. The book was so full of errors I swear it had not been scanned by OCR software as much as it had been scrambled by it. I bookmarked 32 pages of errors, and those are just the ones I was able to find. It seemed every occurrence of “ru” was turned into an “m”. There were other issues, too, like runtogetherwords, etc. …

Several weeks later I checked on the book and downloaded the available sample. The errors seemed to have been corrected, but iBooks wouldn’t let me re-download the book. It seems my edition of the book had been removed and replaced with an updated edition. … It also left me out in the cold. …

I reported the problem to iBooks support and asked for an exchange. … Last weekend I received a email … [which said] … I understand that you purchased, “Ender’s Game”, and you do would like the updated version instead. I know how this is concerning for you and I will be glad to look into this issue for you. I have looked at your purchase. I am unable to refund this item. I do apologize for any inconvenience. I cannot “replace” this item with a new one. Your request for a refund for “Ender’s End” was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are final. This policy matches Apple’s refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.

So now I’m out $6. It’s not the end of the world, but I’m still bothered by it, especially since I received a refund before for the first error-filled eBook and it wasn’t nearly as error-filled as the second book. To say Apple doesn’t do refunds is not quite true.

It seems a simple matter to me. Tor sold me a book through iBooks that was copyedited so poorly that they pulled it and replaced it with a new version. I would simply like to get a copy of that edition.

23 Comments on iBook buyers beware – no refund or exchange even if your book has been updated!

  1. Name (required) // July 28, 2010 at 11:45 am //

    Do something better.
    Start publicizing their bad attitude. Write about their very badly formatted e-book on a high visibility site …
    Oh, wait …

    Seriously.
    Can you find out who is the publisher?
    Have you tried contacting publisher?
    Orson Scott Card has a blog with active discussion. Is he aware of the situation? Contact him 😉

  2. Thank you so much for telling us about your experience. This goes beyond ‘friction’, or ‘inconvenience’. For me personally, it is a deal-breaker.

    A copy of Ender’s Game in which every instance of ‘ru’ has been turned into an ‘m’ is NOT ‘Ender’s Game’, yet Apple purports to have sold you a copy of that text. Sounds like the electronic version of a mis-ship to me. They should make good on this kind of nonsense as a matter of course. The associated costs might even motivate someone to actually proof the texts up front, before making them available for sale. Revolutionary idea.

  3. I think you got a clueless customer disservice rep. I’d escalate (and point out that readers of Teleread want an answer too)

  4. There is a simple remedy to this, since the purchase was necessarily made with a credit card. If you buy a book from Apple that is riddled with errors, you obviously received the equivalent of defective merchandise. If Apple refuses to refund your purchase, just dispute the charge with the credit card company. If Apple gets enough of these disputes, they’ll eventually change their policy, since getting chargebacks is pretty expensive for the company relative to just issuing you a refund.

  5. Richard Askenase // July 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm //

    It is my understanding that this is not untypical of Apple customer service overall- and of the iBook store. Please note that there would be NO similar probpem with Amazon on its kindle books, as they have replaced several poorly formatted purchased ebooks with updated versions IMMEDIATELY, and, of course, at no cost.

    Once again, Amazon customer service rocks!! Apple (and perhaps B & N as I have heard of similar problems there) need to treat their customers MUCH better.

  6. andrew morrow // July 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm //

    So Apple can’t/won’t give you a refund. Maybe you should ask them if they can at least “gift” you a copy of the updated book.

  7. The solution is simple. Buy your ebooks from Amazon. I got an email this week about a book I had purchased from Amazon.

    “We’re writing about your past Kindle purchase of ‘Three Weeks to Say Goodbye’ by Box, C. J.. The version you received contained some errors that have been corrected.

    “An updated version of ‘Three Weeks to Say Goodbye’ is now available. It’s important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version.

    If you wish to receive the updated version, please let us know via e-mail at amazonkindle-feedback@amazon.com.”

    I have also purchased an ebook to find that when opened, it wasn’t the book it was supposed to be. I’ve purchased ebooks by accident. I have found errors in books. In all cases, after contacting Amazon customer service about the problem, my money was refunded by Amazon.

    I understand that Barnes & Noble, like iBooks is also unwilling to refund ebook purchases, even when a mistake has occurred or there is a quality issue.

    I know Richard Askenase already said it, but I thought it should be repeated for emphasis. Amazon customer service does indeed rock!

    Since the Kindle has an app for the iPad and just about every other device, I don’t know why anyone would ever buy a book from the iBook store.

  8. Card has a warning about his defective ebooks prominently placed on his site. In it, he says that “People who purchased the defective ebooks will be contacted by the vendor with instructions for downloading the corrected version.”

    Link: http://www.hatrack.com/ebooks.shtml

  9. Frode Aleksandersen // July 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm //

    Just mentioning this for info – in some countries (like Norway) this would be illegal. The product they delivered is “faulty” by definition which entitles you to either a “fixed” product or, if they can’t provide a fixed product, a refund.

    People affected by this should probably file a complaint with the BBB at the very least, in addition to taking appropriate measures such as disputing the CC charge.

  10. The fixation on Amazon’s 1984 gaffe in the world at large tends to obscure the fact that Amazon generally has spectacular customer service. There was a thread a couple of days ago about what ebook retailers could do to win loyalty; Amazon has already won loyalty with their customer service.

  11. Well. Card’s post on his website is actually true. Apple does have instructions on what to do. Apple instructs its customers to pay for the book again.

    Amazon, OTOH, I’ve gotten at least half a dozen emails from Amazon telling me there is a replacement bug fix for an ebook bought from them, and they have the replacement for me for free.

    Customer Service … perhaps these aren’t words that Apple is familiar with? How about Common Sense?

  12. Hi, I’m a senior editor at Tor, Orson Scott Card’s publisher. I’m not Scott’s editor, but I do manage the science-fiction department.

    Our digital-publishing people are in touch with Apple about this issue. I’ve been told that Apple agrees with us — this shouldn’t have happened. And I understand that Apple people are scrambling to set it right. Bear with us; this industry is being put together at a breakneck pace, so everybody’s bound to trip up a few times.

  13. Thanks Patrick! This is such a simple thing for Apple to fix (but a very big deal for effected customers).

  14. Sadly, I’m not surprised by Apple’s lack of response to this matter. Their customer service in other areas, such as the recent problems with the iTunes upgrade causing iPods to crash, is just as bad. They did eventually fix the problems for most people, but their lack of acknowledgement that there even was a problem is aggravating. Its the same here. I note that the publisher (via Mr. Hayden), is acknowledging the problem, but the silence from Apple is deafening.

    OTOH, I have never had a problem with Amazon that wasn’t immediately acknowledged and fixed. That’s why Amazon gets a lot of business from me.

  15. Apple’s low-level employees doing something nonsensical that the higher-ups disagree with and scramble to put right? Wow, that’s never happened before.

  16. Christian K // July 29, 2010 at 7:18 pm //

    Apple not listening to customer complaints? Apple having a punitive return policy for digital goods?

    Quite frankly I am shocked… SHOCKED I SAY!!! :)

  17. Mike Orange // July 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm //

    Why are publishers using OCR to create ebooks of relatively recent titles? Surely Ender’s Game (1985) was produced using a computer, right? Or am I missing something?

  18. I may have heard wrong, but it’s my understanding is that the computer files were used to create a copy that went to the printer. After they’d finished printing, the publishers didn’t always keep the computer files that might have been used for ebook creation. Until very recently, the ebook just wasn’t a big factor in their thinking.

    If that isn’t the reason, I’m sure there’s somebody reading this who can give a more up-to-date answer.

    Bests to all,

    –tr

  19. DensityDuck // July 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm //

    There’s also the issue of formats. It probably costs less to OCR a hardcopy and proofread the result than it does to train someone how to use LaTeX so you can open your 24-year-old computer file…

  20. Mike Orange // July 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm //

    There is that, though LaTeX is mostly plain text that is easy enough to strip out… yeah, I know, just an example.

    But I guess it costs even LESS to OCR a hardcopy and then NOT proofread the results. So winner for them for using that method!

  21. Great comments, everyone. Thanks for your feedback. I know some of you think this is a silly issue, but I really do expect better customer service from Apple and have, in fact, received better customer service from them countless times before.

    I have replied to Patrick’s comments on my own blog here (http://thesplinteredmind.blogspot.com/2010/08/close-but-no-cigar-i-get-reply-from-tor.html) and welcome your feedback.

    At this point, I am being told to “just bear with” them as they work things out with Apple. However, I have little faith in Apple regarding this issue at this point and will probably press on until I get more concrete info. If this problem happens once, it can happen again, and I have to decide based on Apple’s response whether I reward iBooks with my faith in the form of further purchases or not. As others pointed out here, and as this site points out over and over again, there are other bookstores available on the iPad.

    Cheers!

  22. It looks like Apple’s warranty is about as good as the paper it wasn’t written on. For the record, I use a MacBook and a Kindle.

  23. Looks like things have ended at least somewhat satisfactorily:

    http://thesplinteredmind.blogspot.com/2010/08/ibooks-story-comes-to-end.html

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