Friday, January 30, 2015

Barnes and Noble

Update.-- This morning (1/30/2015) I was able to download the 3 books on the Mac. It took a day to fix their problems. Still not good customer service.

Original Post.-- Years ago I was a fan of Borders books in part because the Tacoma, Washington, store was the largest in the Puget Sound and the local Gig Harbor store opened just 3 miles (walking distance) from home. The store has a second level cafe where you could just sit and read or work, and the staff were great.

That store closed, now a Marshalls, and then the Tacoma store closed, now a furniture store, and the Borders and Barnes and Noble (B&N) merged where the only store now exists, although smaller, in Lakewood south of Tacoma, about 20 miles away.

After some reluctance I created an account on B&N, because I don't like Amazon, not everyone in the Seattle area likes them, and I don't like DRM e-books because you can't read them on other readers without their app, unless of course you spend $30 to buy a DRM-removal app, the price of two e-books.

But having just over a dozen books, normally 50-60% of the hardcover or paperback version, I have grown to dislike NOOK and B&N with every purchase. And the one this week was a good example of why they're losing business and shouldn't even exist except they're the last of the big box bookstores.

So I usually go to Seattle, as there are no other large bookstores in the greater Tacoma area outside the specialty and used bookstores except Half-Priced Books which isn't just a volume reseller of common books, which is good if your a voracious reader and want them cheap, but not if you buy other books.

The most often the place I go in Seattle is the University of Washington (UW) bookstore at 45th and University. The Tacoma campus of UW is a good bookstore serving fewer students and the public but isn't very large and doesn't have a large selection of books.

The bookstore is in the same place it has always been which has far less books now, but at least has a wide selection. The next place is Elliot Bay, now in the Capitol Hill neighborhood near Seattle Central College and Pacific University. After that there's a lot of smaller bookstores scattered around the area, but not easy to get to because of the geography and traffic of the Seattle area.

Anyway, back to the point. Thursday I wanted to buy a book on B&N's Website and here's the sequence over the afternoon and evening and into this morning.

First the search engine didn't work. Then the login didn't work. Then the buy option didn't work. Then it did and gave me an order number but the book didn't show up in my library to download. And the NOOK app on the iPad(s) (the original one and an iPad Air) wouldn't sync.

So after those hours I gave up. This morning there was the receipt in my e-mail and the book in my library, but it won't download. It did download on both iPads, but not on the Mac. I have three books now I can't download to the Mac, the "We're experiencing technical difficulties, please try again later."

Like when? After a day I still can't download and read the book I bought. I keep saying I won't buy another book. I'm a fan of real books you can hold, but I also know that's not environment good with the use of paper and all.

But there is a reason for a real book. Studies have found people who read hardcover or paperback books remember and learn more than people who read the digital version of books. My bookcase is full of books, most for research over the years and some I bought out of curiosity and didn't finish.

So digital books are good for casual reading, and with all the e-books in NOOK I can read any in the library whenever I want without finding the real book. But B&N is testing my patience and tolerance to be a customer, and the few times now I buy one, there's always problems with their Website.

So, in short, I wouldn't recommend them unless they're the only ones with the book you want. And while I'll never recommend Amazon, that's your choice for them as they are the biggest in the market. And yes you buy knowing their business model and practices.

Somehow I think there are a lot of readers who miss the days of real bookstores and real books. Despite the politics of the publishing industry and market then, at least you can find and buy almost any book published.

And doing research for another project over the last 7-plus years I found the Internet to be a great resource for old books which you can find anywhere in the world. I've been amazed how many used bookstores have a wealth of old books in almost any subject.

This is important since many small publishers don't make e-pub versions of their books and some less popular long out of print haven't been reproduced in digital format. That's where the used bookstores and the Internet have flourished.

So while I buy new books in digital format, I still search and buy real, original print (not scanned and reprinted) books going back to the 1800's. That's better than any digital book. But yes, I have scanned many of them (public domain or expired copyright) into PDF's and put them on the iPads.

Anyway, "That's my story and I'll stick with it." - Jimmy Buffett

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