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Book Buying Online

Okay, this is something I have only just gotten back into the spirit of because of two things. The first is that I wanted to see if I could resist buying books at all for a set period of time (approx. 2 months) and instead rely on borrowing from libraries and occupying my time with my studies instead. Predictably, this attempt failed horribly and in part due to reason no. 2: the destruction of Borders and Angus & Robinson Bookstores and subsequent closing down sales. In my excitement I ended up getting heaps of books with authors such as Brandon Sanderson, H.P Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and Tony Hillerman and of course my collectors edition pulp fiction collection. The latter being available for as little as $3, the only downside being that the books gotten were far from being in consecutive order.

So now I have finally made it through all the books I had squirreled away over the winter and began looking for a few books missing from my collections. In particular I had been inspired by my Father (no, not the alien, the human father) to fill in the gaps for his, frequently-stolen-by-me, collection of Brother Cadfael and Amelia Peabody books. For those who aren't familiar with these they are both mystery series. The Brother Cadfael books are set in England during the war of King Stephen v. Empress Maude, Brother Cadfael is a monk and ex soldier during the crusades. It is, of course, his hobby to secretly (for if they knew, his abby would certainly disapprove) snoop around for clues in solving murders. These books have a little bit of everything in them, a mystery, romance, and frequent mentions of historical influence.
On the other hand the Amelia Peabody books are set in egypt with a female protagonist. Amelia is a wealthy married to an egyptologist during the late 1800's and early 1900's and I'm afraid I can't say more than that as, unlike with the Cadfael books, I have only read very little of the series.

The problem with finishing these series' is that I have never met anyone else (apart from family) who have also read them and it has always been rather difficult to find them in normal bookstores. I have often had to search three or four second hand book shops before I can come upon any at all and now with both Borders and Angus & Robinson shut down, Dymocks having become a rarity and Collins Booksellers having faded into the mists of time long ago. The idea of buying books at all from a physical store is becoming a fantasy. And although ears ago I would have been horrified by the thought of needing to make any purchases from the internet it has now become a necessary tool as far as buying new novels is concerned. 
So who are our challengers for the cheaparse title this week? In the red corner weighing in at 0 pounds we have The Book Depository, and in the blue corner at a whopping 0 pounds is our challenger Amazon
I chose these two because all in all I think they are the cheapest. However, I must also admit that I haven't had much experience with buying books from ebay and if anyone has and thinks that it is better then: good for you, keep up the good work. Actually I used to use Amazon a while ago and stopped because I kept finding that the costs of books + shipping that I had personally added up when filling my imaginary internet basket did not add up to what I was charged in the end. Also, Amazon being an American based organization, I had difficulty with figuring out when they were referring to American dollars as opposed to Australian dollars and the conversion rate was such that the American dollar was a fair bit more expensive back then. However, with the American dollar down so far that it is almost laughable and after getting the opinion from some friends that they are a trusty and reliable source for eBooks, I was curious enough to give them a second chance to win back my heart.
The Book Depository is a UK based organisation that I found out about through a few Lynn Flewelling fans one day when browsing the internet. I personally have no idea how it earns money as it always seems to sell fisrst had books at what appears to be the wholesale price and requires NO shipping charges on books going to Australian addresses. The only issue I have with this website is there customer service: i.e don't expect any. What I mean by that can be explained in one simple anecdote: A few years ago I had been having trouble with my internet being unstable. Thinking that if I restarted it and worked quickly I might be able to get in one purchase before the connection started to weaken I went onto the book depository and purchased a book. I was just on the final checkout page when the connection broke off and I had to refresh the page. Going to my email account afterward I found that I had one email from the Book Depository confirming that one book had been purchased and TWO emails from paypal stating that money had been withdrawn by the Book Depository at the price of the book. I immediately sent an email to paypal explaining what had happened and that the double charging was a mistake and they replied back to say that they could do nothing and it was up to me to contact the organization who had charged me in order to rectify the mistake. So I gathered all the information including purchase the order number, date and approximate time that the order was made and I emailed it to The Book Depository, once again explaining my situation. They did not reply. According to their website they will reply to any customer service inquiries in a timely manner. However, after that event I sent them three emails and it has now been well over a year and I have still not recieved any reply for them. In due time I did receive the one book that I had ordered to find that the corner of the cover page was dog-eared, which caused some loud swearing and a declaration that I would never buy from them again (fat chance of that ever happening). But I never recieved so much as an apology for that one time.
The challenge took place when I was required to make a purchase of eight books new by seven different authors and several different publishing companies. Both sources had an available supply of all eight books. At first amazon seemed to have the cheapest prices, some of the books claiming to be as cheap as $4.50 compared to the book depository which had an average price of about $11 per book. Depending on the seller some amazon books claimed a +$4 shipping on Amazon and being as versed as I am with the ways of ebay I took that at face value to mean that shipping would cost a total of $4. The price in the shopping cart appeared as fifty-something dollars at Amazon compared the Book Depository's eighty something dollar grand total. And for a moment I believed that I had found the winner. But, after entering in credit cared details and following prompts I made it to the final page before my purchase would be irreversible. It was on this page and only here that Amazon added up my total purchases with the shipping charges included. To my surprise the fifty-something dollar bargain had turned into almost one hundred and twenty dollars. At this point there is no button on the page to cancel your order, and one must use the address bar in order to get back to the main site without confirming the purchase order. It was only when going through all the books one by one that I found there was only one among them that was cheaper to get from Amazon than it was from the Book Depository (for anyone who is curious that book was House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski). A week and a half later my purchases from the Book Depository started arriving and I decided to check my email account. The first email that drew my attention was one from Amazon that apologised that there would be a delay and my book had only just been put in the mail.

So, what have we learned from this exercise? Well, the Book Depository is cheaper than Amazon for one. However, if there is a chance there could be a problem with your order then it might be best to think about sticking with Amazon because they aren't horrible annoying bastards. 


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Feb. 16th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
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