Thursday, December 24, 2009

Better World Books: Listing Half Of A 2-Part Item

Today we've got Better World Books, a social enterprise based in Mishawaka, IN listing a book's Shop Manual and neglecting to list the actual book itself. The listing has ISBN 1418028657.
The objectionable part of their listing is highlighted and bolded in red below.
Not only does this behavior detract from the overall experience of Amazon customers as they shop for used media, it also messes up automatic pricing engines and may cause BWB's competitors to lose money.
Note the poor feedback of this seller. In practice, 92% is between bad and terrible on the Amazon feedback scale.
If you sent an incomplete item like this in to BWB's textbook buyback arm, they'd probably toss it in the trash and refuse to give you any credit for it.
Bad Bookseller! No Cookie!

  • Seller:  BWB - TEXTBOOKS

  • Rating:92% positive over the past 12 months (3118 ratings.) 15854 lifetime ratings.

  • Shipping: In Stock. Ships from IN, United States. Expedited shipping available. International shipping available. See Shipping Rates. See return policy.

  • Comments:   Shipped by Better World Books. Shop Manual only. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Shipped to over one million happy customers. ( « less )

    Note the following less than stellar feedback:

    1 out of 5:
    "very bad seller, after i purchased for two weeks, then sent me a message and said the book had been sold. don't trust this seller."
    Date: December 21, 2009     Rated by Buyer: XXXX

    1 out of 5:
    "The review is based solely on the misinformation on the condition of the book. Seller said "used - very good," but book has highlighting and writing throughout the entire book. The condition of the book should be clearly described. Labeling the book as "used - very good" when every page has highlighting and writing in he margins is misleading. "
    Date: December 4, 2009     Rated by Buyer: XXXX

    They're getting a total of 3 NO COOKIES today.
    On a closing note, they're at 3.118 sales per year. With most sellers getting about 1 feedback per 5 sales, we can guess this division of BWB is moving about 16,000 pieces per year. If their textbooks average $20 per unit, that's probably a gross of $320K just from Amazon. I'll guess Amazon is 1/3rd of their volume, so this department is probably right around $1M gross annual revenue.
    Their business model probably warrants another blog entry. I'll do it if I get around to it, although I should probably discuss Nebraska Books and their Amazon purchasing antics first.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You Bought Books From Monkey Poo?

When you buy a book from a guy named munky_poo, don't be surprised if things turn out poorly.

Note this feedback:

1 out of 5: "Received a defective DVD-it crashed the DVD player on my brand-new laptop! Product described as in "good" condition, the DVD is full of visible scratches and is unplayable. DVD had no cover art and came in a case full of food stains. "
Date: September 1, 2009     Rated by Buyer: Nina M.

Nina, I hate to say it, but those probably aren't *food* stains.
One "No Cookie" goes out to Nina for buying from a seller named after the stool of a simian primate.
Two "No Cookies" go out to munky_poo; one for a poor choice in store names and a second for getting his monkey poo on the DVD case he sold.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Alibris Coupons Good Til Jan 9 2010

Alibris is a fairly large bookselling website. They have frequent coupons that can get you up to 10% off in some cases.
You'll find that most professional booksellers you see on Amazon also sell on Alibris, and virtually all of the very large online booksellers sell on Alibris.

$1 off on $10: HUNGER
$5 off on $50: GAMES

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books N Nooks on Textbooksrus

Let's take a loook at a textbook seller doing business on Textbooksrus.
This is some phenomenally bad feedback!

View Feedback for : booksNbooks
Member Since: 9/7/2009
Location: New Delhi, AL
Seller Rating: 3.17 (24 ratings)
Feedback Score: 63%
13 Positive Reviews
0 Neutral Reviews
11 Negative Reviews

Rating Date Customer Review
2 out of 5 10/24/2009 I am generally very happy with the books I order online. They come at a great price, and in good condition. However, the received book this time was in terrible condition. Many of the pages are scrunched up and illegible. Will not do business again.
1 out of 5 10/20/2009 I never recieved this book!
5 out of 5 10/19/2009 The processing time takes quite a long time but I got what I order after all with a fast shipment. Thanks.
1 out of 5 10/11/2009 I have not received the book I ordered on Sep. 17th. and I don't get any notice from the seller! Don't buy anything from this seller!
5 out of 5 10/10/2009 I love this book! Did it come with a registration code card? Thanks!
5 out of 5 10/7/2009 No Problems.
1 out of 5 10/5/2009 gives wrong book and tries to take the shipping money. takes very long time. do not buy from this seller. will never do business again.
5 out of 5 10/4/2009 I was left in the dark about my shipment status until i emailed the seller. They responded promptly and kindly. I received exactly what i ordered. Processing took a few days longer than i expected. But i got the book i needed, at an excellent price.
4 out of 5 10/3/2009 Good customer service.
1 out of 5 10/2/2009 this punk sent me the wrong damn book...completely differenet isbn number!! I WANT MY MONEY BACK! ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seller Response: The ISBN for the International edition will ofcourse be different.
5 out of 5 10/1/2009  
5 out of 5 10/1/2009 Good transaction. Thanks
5 out of 5 9/30/2009  
1 out of 5 9/30/2009 out of stock, yet listed as having it in stock. never again
1 out of 5 9/26/2009 Send me a wrong edition book,and the book is missing nearly 50 pages. When I ask for return,there is no response!
5 out of 5 9/24/2009 Great Fast and Prompt Response from seller, this is one very good quality that the seller have. Very satisfied at the moment. Still waiting for my textbook to be shipped. Thanks :)
Seller Response: Thank you very much
1 out of 5 9/22/2009 Read Below:"the previous comment"
Seller Response: This customer was already informed of these slight changes, still he left a negative feedback.
1 out of 5 9/22/2009 Very unprofessional, they say in their comments books have exact content as US editions but they not. Problems are not the same and they use Rupees figure rather than dollars. Who the fuck will be solving a rupees problem in America?
Seller Response: This customer was already informed of these slight changes, still he left a negative feedback.
2 out of 5 9/22/2009 I am still waiting on my book -- I ordered this thing on the 12th of September and it is not here yet... what is really happening?
Seller Response: The deliver has been already attemoted twice. This customer is not available to accept the packet but leaves negative feedback.
4 out of 5 9/21/2009
Seller Response: Thank you very much. Look forward to your continuos business.
Rating Date Customer Review
5 out of 5 9/18/2009 Brand New Books
5 out of 5 9/18/2009 AAA+++ seller
5 out of 5 9/18/2009 Keep up the good work!!!

I've attached a screenshot, although not all of the text will be legibile in it.
Here's the link for this feedback page.

The guy above, cussing and highlighted in red, raises an important point.
While I generally support buying International Editions to save money while you're in school, NOT ALL INTERNATIONAL EDITIONS HAVE THE SAME CONTENT!! Booksellers use boilerplate text that makes this claim for all of their International Editions, when in fact not all of them are word-for-word and page-for-page identical.

Monday, October 26, 2009 Packaging Fail

With this entry, I return to complaining about bad booksellers and leave bad books behind for a while.
When I order a book, I expect it to arrive in the condition it was advertised in.
When I bought the below book, I was assured by the seller's description that it was a new book.
It is true that I was sold a new book. It was in shrink wrap when mailed.
It is simultaneously true that I was sold a new book packaged in a fashion guaranteed to indent all eight corners and smash the edge of one of the hardcovers such that the book was no longer properly new when it got to me.
Notice the book being mailed in a box that would hold four such books, without a shred of packing peanuts, painter's paper or any variety of void fill.

Bad bookseller! No Cookie!

Bad Book, Even Worse Distributor: Nazi Waffen SS Songbook

This entry, like a few others, is about bad books, publishers and distributors, not bad booksellers.
Thus, read the blog's title as "Bad Book, Seller. No Cookie!" when I have entries like this.
The book is a Waffen SS [1] songbook, vintage 1943.
This one, like Atlanta Nights below, is a bad book. In my book, any military song book is a bad book; marches are, at best, bad music.
It may not be the worst book, however, the distributor was the German Third Reich, one of the most evil regimes that ever blighted our planet.
Here's a quick quote from Wikipedia on exactly who the Waffen SS was:
The Waffen-SS (German for "Armed SS", literally "Weapons SS") was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel ("Protective Squadron") or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside the Wehrmacht Heer regular army, but was never formally part of it. It was Adolf Hitler's will that the Waffen-SS never be integrated into the army: it was to remain the armed wing of the Party and to become an elite police force once the war was over. Operational control of units on the front line was given to the Army's High Command, but in all other respects it remained under the control of Reichsf├╝hrer Heinrich Himmler's SS organization, through the SS F├╝hrungshauptamt, literally The SS Guidance Principal Office. In the early years, membership was open to true "Aryans" only in accordance with the racial policies of the Nazi state.

Damn. That makes this a really evil book.
I've pasted pictures of the front and back covers.
Due to the brittleness of the pages, I can't scan the interior without risking the integrity of the book, and it was handed to me on consignment by a customer, so wasn't mine to break.
Here's the weird part, as I look at it, and actually the interesting part of the book from my perspective.
There's an inscription on front.
It has a name on it leading me to believe it was owned by "Aunt Mabelle".
Below the name, it says

Given the language and circumstances, we'll have to assume that "Harold" was a US or British military man who sent the book as a gift to his Aunt.
Now, I don't know about you folks, but I'll be damned if my aunt would consider a Nazi songbook to be an appropriate gift.
I keep going over how that could have been a sane gift, and I keep coming up blank for ideas.

PS- Incidentally, I wasn't willing to market it online, but I did tell my consignment customer about a legitimate militaria dealer that might be interested in buying it, so I hope that works out well for him.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Worst Book Ever, Huh?

I ran across a Google ad in my gmail today.
It claimed that The Cat's Meow: The Annotated Version by David Parker is "The Worst Novel Ever" and "So bad it'll make you cry".
Here's one review:
"Why is David Parker so hard on himself? The Cat's Meow isn't a bad novel, really. Which is not to say that his annotations, in which he mercilessly derides himself for poor plotting and writing choices, aren't hilarious. They are...
I probably won't check it out, but it does look kind of neat. I might check it out if I can get it for a couple of bucks used at a used book store or thrift shop.
Here's the Amazon page.

I would posit, however, that the worst novel ever, intended to be the worst novel ever and written by a number of good authors plus a computer was Atlanta Nights, authored pseudonamously by Travis Tea. 
Here's a quote from the Wikipedia entry:
"Atlanta Nights is a collaborative novel created by a group of science fiction and fantasy authors, with the express purpose of producing a bad piece of work of unpublishable quality to test whether publishing firm PublishAmerica would still accept it.[1] It was accepted, but after the hoax was revealed, the publisher withdrew its offer.[2]

The primary purpose of the exercise was to test PublishAmerica's claims to be a "traditional publisher" which would only accept high-quality manuscripts. Critics have long claimed that PublishAmerica is actually a vanity press which pays no special attention to the sales potential of the books they publish since most of their revenue comes from the authors rather than book buyers. PublishAmerica had previously made some highly derogatory public remarks about science fiction and fantasy writers, because many of their critics came from those communities; those derogatory remarks have influenced the decision to make such a public test of PublishAmerica's claims."
Wiki article here.

That really doesn't do it justice.
A sample does it better justice:
"Richard didn't have as sweet a personality as Andrew but then few men did but he was very well-built. He had the shoulders of a water buffalo and the waist of a ferret. He was reddened by his many sporting activities which he managed to keep up within addition to his busy job as a stock broker, and that reminded Irene of safari hunters and virile construction workers which contracted quite sexily to his suit-and-tie demeanor. Irene was considering coming onto him but he was older than Henry was when he died even though he hadn't died of natural causes but he was dead and Richard would die too someday. . . ."
— from Chapter 25 of Atlanta Nights"

Here's the author's website where you can discuss the book, order it, or buy neat merchandise.
Humorously, while most books can be had used for less than a dollar, this book currently doesn't sell for less than $6.90 used on Amazon. Go figure.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alibris Coupons: 10% Off On $50 or $100, Good Till December 4 2009

$5 off of $50: 

$10 off of $100

Remember to sign up with Ebates, and use them before you shop at Alibris.
That way you can get your 10% off, and get 3% off of the resulting bill.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bookseller Pricing FAIL!

This post shows you what happens when you don't do currency conversion properly.
The seller in question is themeirinca.
Notice the following item, found on, online seller to the Frozen North.

Okay. Nice fashion book. Probably a bunch of neat pictures. Not cheap, though.
Cheapest way to get one from  is direct from Amazon, at CDN$ 109.62.
Let's notice the below listing:

That's right, 17,697 Canadian smackeroos.
Or, for those of you wanting to convert into other currencies, I scooped some values from the Wolframalpha website, which I highly reccomend.

JPY | yen 1.492 million  (Japanese yen)
EUR | euro 11380  (euros)
GBP | sterling 10470  (British pounds)
CNY | yuan 114700  (Chinese yuan)
MXN | $ 222900  (Mexican pesos)

This raises the question of exactly how these guys got this currency conversion that far wrong.
Anyone who could work that out is either better at math than me or travels a lot more.
If you'd like to look at their feedback, it's here:
One wonders how long they'll stay in business with 67% positive feedback.

Feedback30 days90 days365 daysLifetime

That's all for now. Catch you guys later.

PS- Check out their price for the book with ISBN 1416024506, the 18th Ed of The Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bad Bookseller! No Cookie! College Books Direct

Today, our NO COOKIE! winner is Collegebooksdirect.
I ordered two copies of Hall's Economics, 4th Edition hardcover, USA edition for students.
Today, I received the books, complete with a bunch of extra stickers.
Why don't I show you what they looked like?

Front Cover On Arrival

Rear Cover On Arrival

Now, when you see a bunch of used book stickers on the cover, 90% of the time that means there's something up.
Typically you're looking at some kind of free copy.
When textbook "salesmen" visit a college campus, they hand "free" copies of the books out to professors so that they can review the books and consider them for adoption in their next class on the book's topic.
In most cases, these free copies have been specially printed to discourage resale.
Frequently one will see "Instructor's Edition" printed on the front and/or back covers. The ISBN printed on the bottom right corner of the rear cover is generally a special ISBN that has been assigned to the rear Instructor's Edition only; regular copies bear a similar but different number, generally with a difference in the final two digits.
Thomson Southwestern sometimes makes statements on the covers like "NOT FOR SALE: This textbook has been provided free for an instructor to consider for classroom use. Selling free examination copies contributes to higher prices of textbooks for students."
Knowing all of the above, I proceeded to peel the stickers off of these books.
Let's take a look at the bare books! Some residue remains; these stickers are not made to be easily removed, and I probably spent 10 minutes stripping them off.

Front Cover, After Sticker Removal

Rear Cover, After Sticker Removal

There you go. My suspicions were correct.
Let's note that this condition was NOT properly disclaimed.
Here's the description:
Text may contain some highlighting.
Below is a screenshot of the description.

For the record, I ordered this on the website.
Now, Alibris *does* permit teacher's editions, but they need to be disclaimed as such.
Thus, our "No Cookie" goes out to Collegebooksdirect, who really ought to have known better. It's not like they're new to the textbook scene, being nearly 15 years old.

Trivia question for the readers:
What's the oldest instructor's edition you've ever seen?
Feel free to share!

12/24/2009 Update: I noticed a couple of hits from an IP associated with College Books Direct. In case you're reading this, here's a kind word or two: You guys are generally way cooler about returns than 90% of sellers, and your customer service is head and tails above every other large textbook seller I've ever dealt with. I'd give you a Good Bookseller! Cookie For You! on that basis, but here at Bad Bookseller, No Cookie, I only have No Cookies! to hand out. I initially left your name out of my post, but put it in later to illustrate a point for one of my friends.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another No Cookie For Half

Okay, not only do you let flawed listings through, Half, but you refuse to remove them even when I report them. Twice.

Notice this listing:

Textbook of Medical Physiology: With STUDENT CONSULT Online Access
EBOOK/ELECTRONIC version of Textbook Of Medical Physiology

Come on guys, it's not like it's a wrong version, this is an actual illegal electronic copy.
Anyone want to contact Saunders, the publisher?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Amazon, You Seem To Be Able To Get Away With Listing The Illegal Import Of The Old Edition On The New Edition's Product Page!

The Bad Bookseller of the day is Amazon's 'turkishboy'.
Not him listing not only an older edition of the book, but also an edition that's not actually permitted for sale in the US.
Sometimes I wonder if these folks don't do this to mess with the automatic repricers that some larger dealers use.
Some nefarious types use unattractive copies of books to "bait" down the prices of legitimate booksellers.

0324422695 9780324422696
Financial Management: Theory & Practice (with Thomson ONE - Business School Edition 1-Year Printed Access Card)
11th Edition International Softcover. Content 90\% similar to 12th Edition Hardcover. Differences: Some End of Chapter Problems. Mini-Cases are exactly identical. Text in pristine condition. Cover only slightly worn. With CD and Subscription.

For what an "International Student Edition" is, go here:

For what an "automatic repricer" is, go here:

Finally, if you're a seller and thinking about using a repricing service, I reccomend "Repriceit". Their "smart repricing" isn't perfect, but it's the best option available to someone who doesn't want to move to a fancy listing service or write custom perl scripts to do it.
Their site is here:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Alibris Coupon: $3 off on $30

I've decided to broaden my focus and include shopping tips for the savvy book consumer.

Folks, if you buy books online you owe it to yourself to check out the Alibris website.

Alibris is a bookselling/media venue with a large number of third-party sellers listing their stock on it, much like you might see on Amazon's Marketplace. Alibris itself is a bookseller, and sells some books from its own stock.

The following coupon is good through September 30, 2009:
LAPPE - $3 off $30+

If you need 3 $30 items, slap 'em in your cart and enter this coupon at checkout. You'll get the items in my example for $27 plus shipping.
If the items are from the same seller, you get a discount on shipping, which is better than what Amazon does, where you can order 10 books from the same seller and wind up paying $39.90 in shipping.

Another trick I suggest is to sign up with "Ebates". This site will give you 3% cashback on each purchase you make through them with Alibris, so in my above example you'd get back 90 cents.
This knocks your product cost on your $30 purchase down to $26.10, at which point you just got 13% off on your purchase.
That's a good deal in anyone's book!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Call For Submissions

I run into a lot of marginal bookselling, but I'm sure you guys run into more.
I wish I had more to share, but I've gotten more conservative as a buyer in recent months, and have consequently run into less horrid bookselling.
Got a story to tell?
Go ahead and share it in the comments for this post.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does NEW Mean Wet With Musty Odor?

Today, we've got an Amazon marketplace seller listing a copy of an Abrams' cofee table book entitled British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas.

They're priced fairly, at $31.29, except for the fact that their copy is the kind of junk you can't sell on Amazon, or or pretty much any major bookselling venue besides Ebay.
Note the description:

Rating:98% positive over the past 12 months (102 ratings.) 509 lifetime ratings.
Shipping: In Stock. Ships from WA, United States. See Shipping Rates. See return policy.

Is it perhaps possible that these Fireside intended that one of their competitors, with copies priced above $250, would accidentally match prices with Fireside in an attempt to get a deal on this book?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm............. for misgrading the book, these folks get a NO COOKIE! for sure. We can't be certain as to their intent, but we can be certain they've misgraded this book.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another No Cookie For

Half, you've just gotta' start policing your listings.

Check out the listings for this title:
Materials Science And Engineering: An Introduction
(Hardcover, 2006)
Author: William D. Callister Jr.

The below listings may be found:
Brand New About our quality ratings
Price Seller Feedback Comments Shipping From
$12.00 hitups
$19.99 mchandok
(1) 50% WARNING!!!!! This is the PDF version of this book & Lecture Notes for this... Media Mail from FL
Get it faster More info
$20.00 amrinder925
(56) 100% E-BOOK exactly like hard copy.. with all the diagrams and everything in... Media Mail from CA
Get it faster More info
$62.38 salambooks
(2499) 100% Brand New U.S Edition, Fast Shipping, Reliable Service Media Mail from CA
Get it faster More info

There we go. Half customers trying to find copies of this book to buy for school in Brand New condition are forced to wade through 3 bogus listings before actually managing to find a copy that is a lawful product with the right information.
Half already bans the phrase "international edition". They should probably do the same with PDF, as well as E-Book and ebook.

Let's compare and contrast with the Amazon listing page:

Note that the first 4 listings, including the one from Nebraska Books [NETTEXTSTORE] actually include the book.
Bully for you, Amazon!

Now, let's notice a little bit of irony in the Nebraska Books listing, graded Amazon "Good":
Rating:95% positive over the past 12 months (9195 ratings.) 18910 lifetime ratings.
Shipping: In Stock. Ships from NE, United States. Expedited shipping available. See Shipping Rates. See return policy.
Comments: Books have varying amounts of wear and highlighting. Usually ships within 24 hours in quality packaging. Satisfaction guaranteed. Books have varying amounts of wear, highlighting and may not include CD. Usually ships within 24 hours in quality packaging. Satisfaction guaranteed.

There's a little bit of irony and hypocrisy here. Some of my readers in the used book trade will understand, while others among you probably don't get the significance.
If you Google "nebraska books scam" you'll get some background, but I'll probably be doing a blog entry discussing the Nebraska Books situation before too long.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book = NEW for Very Carefully Chosen Values of New

I ordered two 'new' copies of a college textbook a few of days ago from a medium-sized marketplace seller on Alibris, Collegebooksdirect.
The description for both read:
"New Book in shrink wrap. Excellent condition!"
They showed up quickly.
I've ordered dozens of times before from this seller, and never failed to be impressed.
This time, not so much.
They did show up shrink-wrapped, but I was looking at one of the sealed books, and I noticed this [1]:

That's right, a previous owner wrote their name to the top edge of the page block in bright red letters, and the book got sold to me as new.
I opened the shrinkwrap on this book.
I notice that the binding is not tight [2], ending any suspicion that this could have been at least an unread book, marked by a buyer and then returned before the end of the legal return period for the book.
Next, I look carefully at the boards.
There are minor scratches to the boards, and I notice a tell-tale small amount of ground-in dirt to the corner of the back board:

This is a fairly clean used book, but it ain’t new.
The second book was in better shape, but the bottom edge of the page block had the following soiling and/or pen marking:

So, went ahead and unsealed that one, too, and sure enough, the binding wasn't tight, and there was some random dirt between the front endpaper and the free front endpaper [3].
I went ahead and sent an email to the seller. I won't consider this seller as a whole a bad bookseller, given his track record and probable large number of employees, but he certainly EMPLOYS a bad bookseller who let these guys slip past.
A hearty "No Cookie" award goes out to that employee, although I'm hoping they're a fine bookseller who came in with a hangover that day, or some such equally worthwhile excuse.
Enough margaritas makes any mistake seem like a good idea....
08/25/2009: I contacted Collegebooksdirect to let them know about the mistake. A few hours later, I received a very polite apology from one of their employees, along with an offer to pay me the price difference between NEW and USED copies of this book.

[1] I've censored part of the name; no reason to involve the previous student owner of this book.
[2] Don't know what a tight binding is?
"The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book."
[3] Don't know what a free front endpaper (ffep) is? Go to the above link. I'm just sad this bookdoesn't have a bastard title page, preventingme from working that phrase into the main text of the article.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Betterworld Books: I'll let you folks decide if they deserve a cookie

They're the largest of the pseudo-Charity booksellers.
They donate more money to literacy promotion in Africa and other parts of the world than most of us make in a year.
Despite the above fact, many folks, including lots of their competitors, are upset with them.
I'll outline some frequent complaints. I'm not asserting their truthfulness

- They leave one with the impression that they're a charity when they're a for-profit company
- They lead college students to believe the books students give to Better World Books are being shipped to folks in Africa -- when in fact those books are being sold, and 5-10% of profits (not net) are going to a fund that sends books to Africa.
- Their management is present on the boards of some of the charities that they donate to, which some feel is a conflict of interest.

I'll note that, in particular, I spoke to a number of students at a local community college who believed that donations to BWB actually got shipped to Africa. Do students at most schools that have BWB donation boxes believe that? I couldn't tell you.

Here's an article, with more information about BWB than most folks have:

An interesting quote:
'For Helgesen, Fuchs and Kurtzman, giving back is a vital part of the operation. Better World Books donates 5 to 10 percent of its revenue back into the hands of libraries and literacy programs around the world.'

Here's my personal take:
They offer some good deals. I've ordered from them maybe a dozen times, and their customer service is good, their grading is usually pretty honest, and they ship promptly. Their packing leaves something to be desired on cheap titles, but when I ordered some new $100 reference titles from them, they packed better than the average bear.
I will note that the single time they really messed up an order through ABEBooks, I got a refund in full, and they didn't ask me to send the book back.
I may show some orders from them in future posts, and may revisit the issue of their public image vs reality if my readers show interest.

* Note: I'm not saying these complaints are either true, nor that they would matter if true. I invite the reader to think about these things.

Additional links:, Clean Up Your Listings for Pete's Sake

Well, gotta' hand out four Bad Bookseller Non-Cookies this morning.
One goes to, the other 3 go to some small-time amateur sellers, probably college kids.
I mostly blame Half for not policing its sellers, listings, and for not properly educating its sellers.
I was just checking prices on a textbook I just sold when I noticed a couple of listings that didn't seem right.
Half of the college kids that list on Half seem incapable of grading properly. I don't really blame them, as getting a hold of proper book grading takes some folks a while to learn.
Check these descriptions, under LIKE NEW for Foundations of Maternal-Newborn Nursing, with ISBN 1416001417.

Price Seller / Feedback Comments
$20.00 paden89 (43) 100% may have some highlighting, like brand new!
$34.62 lalasoutherngal25 (1) hardback,looks brand new, contains highlighed areas of importance
$35.00 mazda6boyblue (18) Book is practically brand new.
$35.00 erica3983 (18) The cover of this book is different than the picture. It has a mother holding her child.

Let's take a look at that.
Of the four cheapest listings for LIKE NEW, two have highlighting, and one apparently isn't even the right book.
My humble suggestion for Half: when amateur sellers list books, make them fill in checkboxes for various properties:

Does this book have a broken spine: (yes/no)
Has this book been wet: (yes/no)
Does this book have highlighting/underlining: (yes/no)
Is there highlighting on more or less than 50% of pages: (yes/no)
Are all pages and covers present: (yes/no)

Once this survey has been filled out, I propose that the seller be allowed to select a condition grade out of condition grades that apply to the book in question.. or be directed to list the book on Ebay.
After all, Ebay will let you list a book that you've spilled coffee on or dropped in a puddle on the way to class, while you just can't list those on Amazon, Half, or most of the other fixed-price bookselling venues.

My suggestion of a "book screening" checklist above also applies to Amazon, which has a healthy number of amateur sellers as well.
Perhaps once you get 10, 20 or some other number of feedback (as a seller, not a buyer) you should be exempted from this requirement.
Kudos to mazda6boyblue above: you seem to have graded the book properly, and you appreciate the Mazda6, which is a really nice car. The MazdaSport variant, however, gets ridiculously bad gas mileage for its weight... that's another "No Cookie" blog, though. At least it's an intermediate-sized vehicle with 272 horsepower, that counts for something.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shilling Your Own Feedback

Today's "Bad Bookseller, No Cookie" award goes out to Ecampus for what I suspect is them shilling their own feedback on a site that reviews book buyback sites.
For background, a book buyback site is one where you punch in the ISBN of your book, usually a college textbook, and are told that you'll receive money for mailing your book in to the operators of the website.
I noticed the suspicious feedback in question on a site called Bookscouter. This is a site that lets you punch in the ISBN from your book and then get quotes from dozens of buyback sites. I use it myself from time to time when I need to dispose of a college textbook or two.
I've posted a shot of the review in question, along with some of the surrounding reviews.

Notice the following feedback, which is part for the course for this company's reviews on this site.

1 of 5: July 2009 DO NOT USE this so-called company. Instead of paying me they posted "in-store" credit and then never converted this to cash payment even after repeated requests and their promise to do so. Their email messages are worthless computer generated pap, and their "customer service" is nonexistent.
1 of 5: June 2009 Having dealt with this company a few times, I generally understand how they work. I recommend that anyone selling books to ecampus plan on waiting 1-3 months to receive a check. With almost every order so far I have received a check, although one time they claimed that the books were lost (yea right). Anyways, the trick to getting money out of them faster is after a month or so start complaining by sending them messages. Wait a week in between complaints and you will usually get your check after about 2 or 3 messages sent to them. It sounds stupid but that's the way they work. Definitely a company I would recommend not dealing with unless it's your only option.
1 of 5: May 2009 too bad i have to give them 1 star, otherwise they would get zero. the story goes...took my books, no payment, no response to email, it's now over 90 days since sending books. my advice is to look for another company even if ecampus gives you a quoted price.
1 of 5: April 2009 Finally! Payment Received 87 days after they had possession of the books I sent. It only took 9 emails, 3 phone calls and a "payment demand" letter from my lawyer to get my money. I sold them 88 brand new copies of a nice book for which I had to get management approval prior to sending. Emailing them is a joke, did not resolve or help at all, when they bothered to even answer. I was informed on three separate occasions my check had been sent. Phone calls are a waste of time. I finally checked out the Better Business Bureau (BBB) file on where they are rated a "D+" with 500+ lifetime complaints. Finally after my lawyer sent a "demand" letter via registered mail I got a phone call the same day that letter was received by them. They had been busy, payments were taking longer than normal, blah blah blah. They never even apologized. I did get my check two days later though. This is EASILY the worst company I have dealt with for anything! EVER!! I am upset the rating system forces me to award them even 1 star.

Okay. That's the pattern. There are quite a few more in the same vein.

Now, notice the one positive review.

5 of 5: April 2009 No problems here. I understood their timeframe stated, and, was paid within it. I was ok waiting i a little longer because they provided free, insured, UPS Return shipping and paid higher rates than any other site.

Even if they're not shilling positive feedback for themselves, it's amazing that they've currently got 14 feedback on the site, and not a single ambivalent customer. Normally even the worst company gets some lukewarm feedback due to unobservant consumers.
You know, what the heck....
For what amounts to a terrible track record of satisfying their users, I'm issuing a second "No Cookie" to Ecampus.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Good Doesn't Mean A Broken Spine

Well, here's a disappointing purchase.
On 06/26/2009 I ordered a book described as follows from a seller on

Condition: Good Notes: Book shows minor use. Cover and Binding have minimal wear and the pages have only minimal creases.

Unfortunately, when it showed up, the binding was cracked in two. No pages were falling out, but the only thing connecting the two big chunks of the page block was the actual softcover itself.

Check out the binding:

Another shot of the binding:

Let's check out the book grading system:
Item Quality - Books
Brand New
Never read or used
In perfect, mint, undamaged condition
Publisher’s remainder marks are acceptable

Like New
Used but still in perfect mint condition inside and out

Very Good
Appears new from the outside with minimal marking inside
Books with these marks:
Name of previous owner
Underlining on 10% of pages or less
Highlighting on 10% of pages or less
Institutional ID stamps and library checkout card pockets

Books with minimal damage
Scuffed covers and missing dust jackets
Cover can't be creased, torn or have holes
Minimal crease or tears to majority of the pages
No missing pages

Books with damage
Creased, torn, or holes in the cover
Books with damaged spines
Books with more than 10% of pages highlighted or underlined
Books that have been refurbished
Books that have been modified for library circulation
Mylar covers
Attached dust jackets
Embossed covers or numbered book spines

Unacceptable - The following items cannot be sold on
Books without covers
Books with missing pages
Books with stains or water damage

I won't be complaining, as it was a really good deal.
Stay tuned, as in future posts I'll report on some of the interesting responses I get from sellers when I point out challenges in our transactions.
It should be a hoot.