Dec. 8th, 2014

maxcelcat: (Dalek)
One of my prize possessions is a Kobo Ebook Reader, which was a gift from Deb on my 41st birthday. I was very anti the ebook for a long time, I love books and have thousands of them, and I like being able to hold that solid lump of paper and read it. I also figured that ebooks would suffer the same fate as all the released video tapes. When DVDs became the norm, a lot of films were re-released on the new format, but to this day some 40% have not. I figured the same thing would happen to some of the more obscure books I wanted to read. The example I used was Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book published during the second world war. Then someone sent me a link to the Kindle version of it on Amazon...

My tendency towards reading large dense Science Fiction novels and more recently the 4000-odd pages of Game of Thrones also endears the ebook reader to me. The whole GoT series must weight in at three kilos, but on my ebook reader they weight nothing. I've also got a lot of books my Neal Stephenson. One of his latest offerings, Anathem clocks in at 937 pages!

I also read a lot of (big fat) history books. History doesn't lend itself to brevity. And this is where I discovered a flaw in the joy of ebook reader ownership.

I bought a (big fat) history book on the Kobo site, and read it with great interest. It was the first volume of a two volume work, like I said, history is verbose. So I coughed up some more money for the second volume... Only to find that the digital version of the second volume had the same contents as the first - it was the same file, effectively, with a different file name.

I brought this to the attention of Kobo. They have one of those fun email support things, where you fire off an email to them, they respond with an email saying we have received your email and will respond forthwith. Then another email with a response, asking for more information, to which you reply, which prompts another email saying thank you for getting in touch we'll get back to you shortly, then a response from someone else asking for the same information again, and more than likely contradicting the earlier... And thrown into the mix are other emails asking how helpful the first set of emails were and could you fill in a short survey.

Out of this the gist of what they were saying was "contact the publisher, we just publish what we're given". This I did. The publisher turned out to be a tiny specialist imprint from the US called Potomac Books. Emails to the various email addresses listed on their site yielded no response whatsoever.

So one night I stayed up late and called them at 9AM their time, 11PM Melbourne time. In fact I called a couple of times, once I remembered how to dial internationally. I left detailed messages with email addresses and phone numbers. Again there was no response.

One night after another unanswered call, I decided rather than calling their editorial line, I'd try sales. I finally got onto an actual human, who was perplexed by my inquiry, but did provide the useful information that Potomac has recently been bought by the University of Nebraska Press, who handled all their ebooks. Finally!

In the mean time, I thought I'd try and get a copy from elsewhere. It turns out that JBHiFi, of all retailers, now has an ebook site. So I bought another copy of this book from there... And wouldn't you know it, it had the same contents! At least this meant the problem was definitively with the publisher and not Kobo

So I dropped some emails to the folks at Nebraska Press. This process had been going on for about six months by this stage, although I lost interest for months at a time. Finally I got a reply. Yes, the contents were wrong, yes they'd update it. And yes they did... Then Kobo did nothing with it for at least a few weeks till I prompted them again. And finally I got the book onto my reader. Volume II was finally mine to read! And... it wasn't half as interesting as volume one...

It occurred to me afterwards that part of the reason Potomac books might have ignored me was because I must have been the first and so far only person to actually buy the ebook version of this tome. It was a lot of trouble for them to get my $37 for this one book!

And what after all this, was the book in question? Why it was A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events in two volumes by Norman Polmar of course!

Now if this had been a paper book, I'd have been able to look at it in the book shot as an actual physical object and go "wait a second, this is the wrong book!". When everything is digital, there are no words on a page to read before you buy.

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