Micropay problems at Fictionwise? Company and Barnes & Noble seem unresponsive

images.jpgI received the following email from Clytie Siddall, from Renmark, in the Riverland of South Australia. Is anyone else having similar problems with Fictionwise?

Email begins:

My purchasing at Fictionwise has dwindled from a flood to a trickle since the imposition of “geographic limitations”, but I still prefer to buy ebooks there if I can. I also signed up last year (before the imposition) for another 5 years of the Buywise club. Under the current publishing conditions, we customers are told that we will still be eligible for Buywise discounts for the life of our already-paid subscription, and that we can use our existing Micropay balance.

The Micropay balance is the issue here. In mid-July I tried to use mine. It’s shown at the top of the Shopping Cart, and the Help says you can use it. However, the Micropay button no longer shows at the bottom of the Shopping Cart.

Previously, if your total was less than your Micropay balance, and you didn’t have any “PayPal/Credit card Only” titles in your Shopping Cart, then you could press the Micropay button to checkout. Your balance would be debited by that amount, and you didn’t need to pay with PayPal or credit card. This was quick and convenient, and definitely caused me to buy significantly more books.

In mid-July I couldn’t find any way to checkout using my Micropay balance. I searched the site and the Help. I kept going back there every couple of days to see if the problem had been fixed. It wasn’t.

So, on the 27th July, I put in a formal request for Customer Support. I have had no response. My titles are still sitting in my Shopping Cart, and I’m not game to buy anything else until this is cleared up. Fictionwise owe me over $60 Micropay: I really don’t mind how they reimburse me (e.g. a voucher for books), but I’m distinctly unhappy that they aren’t fulfilling their agreement to allow us to use up our Micropay balance, and that they don’t respond to my customer service request. I’ve made a handful of requests over the years I’ve been at Fictionwise, and they have never responded. I have no idea why. There is nowhere to go on their site from that point.

So I emailed B&N, explaining my problem. The first reply was an auto-respond which didn’t address my problem at all. So I asked them to read my email. The second reply was that I should contact Fictionwise. I said that I had tried that (repeatedly), without success, and that surely the customer service behaviour of a wholly-owned B&N company was B&N’s business. The next reply was that it wasn’t, and I should “contact Fictionwise”.

I’d really appreciate hearing from anyone who’s had any success in contacting Fictionwise, or has any idea how I can resolve this. B&N don’t appear to care, which does raise some interesting questions.

12 Comments on Micropay problems at Fictionwise? Company and Barnes & Noble seem unresponsive

  1. I was a large fan of fictionwise back when it was actually a good place to buy ebooks. Unfortunately, fictionwise has become such a poor place to buy books that I haven’t used it since most of us used up our micropay balances in preparation of micropay’s demise.

    I just went to fictionwise, chose a book, and went to checkout. I noticed that the little bit of micropay I had was automatically used to discount the book’s price, so they seem to be still honouring the concept, just implementing it differently. I expect though that micropay is going to be gone soon.

  2. I noticed the same when I bought a book from FW a few weeks ago (a multi-format title; I no longer trust them to deliver DRM-infected books) – the Micropay button had disappeared, but the price of the book was reduced by my Micropay balance during the final checkout (it wasn’t reduced in the shopping cart, however).

  3. I bought some books this weekend using my Micropay balance. As MarkChan says above, it’s applied to the balance of your order as ‘Store Credit’, rather than being a separate payment option as it used to be. I clicked the ‘Check Out’ button under ‘payment methods’ and the total was taken out of my Micropay balance, no problem. It is a bit confusing though, and there’s no excuse for such poor customer service.

  4. I have had cause on occasion to email Fictionwise myself to make complaints. I quickly found a surefire way to get their attention and get a response was to state firmly and clearly my eagerness to broadcast any failures on their part on a variety of public forums, including Mobileread.com. Or to put it more subtly, I would tell them that I would much rather report a positive outcome to a problem on Mobileread than a negative one.

    Really, it works wonders. But given how far the site has slipped since I first started shopping there – and I used to buy a lot of books from it too – perhaps they’ve reached the point where they don’t care anymore.

  5. Mauricio Longo // August 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm //

    I used to be a regular customer at fictionwise.com. When they started to implement the geographic restrictions I stopped buying. When I got their message about micropay I went to the site and immediatelly ordered a book to clear my micropay balance.

    I’ve downloaded all my books again and loaded them up as files into iBooks or Stanza instead of importing directly from their site.

    This is a real sad state of affairs, when a company you’ve done business with and trusted for many years can no longer be trusted. I used to refer eveyone interested in eBooks to FictionWise.

    With the idiotic geographic restrictions placed on online ebook retailers I guess the best place to look for books is a good torrents site as publishers are sending a clear message that they don’t want readers to be able to purchase the books. They might simplify things and make the books available for free for anyone outside the US as most don’t allow readers from other countries to buy their books.

    Baen is a shinning beacon in a world of idiotic actions by publishers. They sell to the whole world directly on their own site and through every retailer. I’m discovering new authors by going through their catalog.

  6. Alexander Inglis // August 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm //

    I was a Fictionwise customer for the first six months of 2010 and was spending more there than at Amazon. I was buying for my Kindle but sometimes had to buy ePub that needed “DRM adjustment” before converting (I also bought a Kobo so they could be used directly there).

    I made a point of using my $50 or so in Micropay credits early summer. Like the others, it simply discounted like a store credit. I have 41¢ left but that will probably never be retrieved as I am unlikely to buy anything more there. A pity — but they simply were not getting full shake at content I wanted as an alternative supplier. I use Kobobooks now instead.

  7. Fictionwise is also having problems with their magazine subscriptions. I tried to renew my subscription to “Interzone” and “Asimov’s” and on both occasions, the one-year subscription page states “NO LONGER ON SALE”.

    The feedback I got from their support staff was:

    “I’m sorry but we are not offering subscriptions at this time. Please use the single issue purchase option.”

    This worries me as Fictionwise was the only company I know that offers e-subscriptions for those magazines (along with “Analog” and “Fantasy and SF”).


  8. Clytie Siddall // August 23, 2010 at 5:41 am //

    Thanks for the informative replies, guys. I went back to my Shopping Cart to check if a “Micropay credit” has been applied, and what do you know? Instead of just showing a total, the cart now shows:

    -Store Credit

    This certainly wasn’t there before, or I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to find out what was going on. Possibly my Micropay balance was just deducted from the book prices, as people say above. I didn’t notice, because now I can’t buy from the Agency 5, I buy only very cheap indie books.

    Thankyou Teleread for helping me publicize this issue. Do you think that, now Fictionwise have fixed it surreptitiously, I might even get a reply to my support request? 😮

    I agree with other keen ebook buyers here: it’s a great pity that Fictionwise has been gutted by the Agency 5 and B&N. It was a terrific site, and we used to buy a lot of books there.

  9. @clytie: I don’t think you will ever hear from their customer support. Unfortunately, fictionwise is on the path to extinction.

  10. Mauricio Longo Says:: This is a real sad state of affairs, when a company you’ve done business with and trusted for many years can no longer be trusted. I used to refer eveyone interested in eBooks to FictionWise.

    Isn’t that a bit harsh ? I mean they are hardly in control of the geographical situation and have to obey the legal restrictions that are applied to the books they sell. It is sad and disappointing yes, but more than that ?

  11. @Howard: I think it is actually “more than that”. I agree that geographical restrictions are not their fault. However, the cancellation of their buywise club and changes to their micropayment system are their fault. Some have suggested that the loss of the buywise and micropayments is due to the A5 pricing model, but this is simply not true, since fictionwise doesn’t even sell those books and has no contract to do so with the A5. Furthermore, what once was a great customer service reputation is now in the sever system.

  12. Clytie Siddall // August 24, 2010 at 1:04 am //

    I agree, Mark. Fictionwise was so successful because it was responsive to its customers’ needs. Before the B&N takeover, an article like this would have brought the Fictionwise owners over here immediately, offering to fix the problem, and willing to work directly with the customers and industry. This is the kind of positive attitude which we’ve seen from Michael Tamblyn of Kobo. It’s commercially and creatively invaluable.

    Again, the big publishers and many retailers are alienating customers and missing great opportunities.

    B&N have bought the competition, then strangled it. Fictionwise was best practice in many ebook-retailing areas. Currently, Borders in Australia is developing its etailing presence, and when I suggest the features it needs, they all come from Fictionwise (although I’ve used a wide range of etailers).

    So, we had a best-practice international ebook retailer, but instead of capitalizing on its strengths, it has been destroyed, and we now have new retailers in each country, laboriously assembling the basics. How does that make sense?

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