September 10, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Online Bookshops

Hello everyone!!! 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the places where I get my books, and to be honest I do it online. As I live outside the US and in a Spanish-speaking country where publishing is very nearly dead, I do most of my shopping online.

Since recently I tried a new site, I decided to run a little comparison on the sites I use more frequently. So, let's start...

The first site I ever used was - I even remember the first books I bought, Sarah Dessen's first four books. They were one of the first US retailers to ship internationally -at a cost, but whatever - and for that reason they will always be close to my heart. 

- Fast delivery - to my country, they usually take between 7 to 10 days.
- Deeply discounted books and 4-for-3 promotions.
- Ensured delivery - basically, if you don't get your item, they'll send it to you again at no extra cost for you.
- Great costumer service - they usually answer email inquiries within 12 hours, often sooner than that.

- International Shipping IS very expensive.
- Doesn't deliver to P.O. boxes.
- Many of their promotions don't apply to International buyers (like the 25 dollars = free shipping and handling, or Amazon Prime, or release date deliveries). 

I know Amazon is a bit of a big bully in the playground of online retailing, but personally I've always have good experiences with them as a costumer. I've been buying from them for close to 10 years and I've only had have trouble with their deliveries twice - once to Mexico, once to an US address - and both times the situation was resolved to my satisfaction.

book depository
The Book Depository is relatively new in the scene, though I've been aware of them to several years now. I just started to use them this year because they started to deliver to my country for free.

- Free International Delivery to a number of countries - they do not deliver everywhere in the world, but where they do, they do it for free!
- Small but nice discounts and promotions - almost every month you can find 5 to 10 % off promotions on the site, available to all
- Access to international editions - mostly UK editions, and not always but it's still nice.
- Good costumer service - they usually answer email inquiries within 24 hrs.
- They email you if items in your wish list drop in price (Thanks to Daisy for reminding me!) 

- Long delivery times - to my country, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for items to arrive.
- No gift cards.
- Wish List system is a bit slow, and it doesn't show if someone already bought something off the list (this matters at Christmas time, trust me!)

In general terms I love The Book Depository, they are slowish but reliable and have friendly costumer service - so far they have been wonderful. I usually use them when I'm not in a particular hurry to get a book, I just wanna have it. 

Fishpond World is the newbie of this list, the one I recently tried. I had heard about the Australian site but recently they started to deliver internationally too, though Fishpond World. 

- Access to Australian titles not available through other retailers. 
- Occasional bargain offers.
- Good pricing.
- Free Shipping.

- Unreliable costumer service - they take forever to answer your email inquiries, if they ever do. And there is no other way to contact them.
- Delays in shipping.
- Confusing international site. Order information and invoices don't make sense half the time. 
- Long delivery times (About a month, give or take, to my country). 

As I said, this was the one I was trying out; and I was really excited when I read about it at Inkcrush; as I love Australian YA authors, but I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole experience. 

First off, the items did arrive - later than they promised but they made it to my front door - and that's important. But I was overcharged at first and I had to take that up with costumer service and they took several days to answer and look into it, and that is a problem as their only way of contact is through email.  I don't know about you, but that made me nervous, though it was cleared up. 

I've heard several horror stories about the site, and though mine wasn't one of them, it still worried me. I wouldn't go as far as saying you shouldn't use this site, but I do say you should proceed with caution when you do and don't spend a lot at once in case there are problems. And, to be fair, I've also heard from of people who do love this site.

And, in any case, is up to you to do your due diligence and check out costumer-reviews of the sites, ask around if your friends have used the service, etc., so later you don't get an unpleasant surprise.

I hope this was of some help!


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