[There has been an update since this was posted, details at the end of this post]
I have a feeling this post will be long, so if I can start with a conclusion sentence it would be: Please, just don’t buy textbooks from AbeBooks.com
If the books you order actually arrive in good condition and as described, then you’re lucky! But more often than not, a problem will arise and the hassle of dealing with the situation is simply not worth saving a couple of dollars.
I’m a medical student who uses a lot of textbooks as resources. Yes, I do have electronic versions, however when it comes to buckling down, studying from a number of textbooks laid out in front of you is much easier than tabbing back and forth on your computer screen. It is also less effort to grab textbooks for reference than to look them up on the computer.
The point is, textbooks are not cheap and to have a good collection can easily cost you $1000 or more. Many students know that buying textbooks online is a much cheaper and more convenient than buying textbooks from your school or local bookstore. The problem is, which online stores are reputable?
Prior to coming to Australia – Amazon.com or Amazon.ca were my primary choices followed by reputable sellers on eBay. After coming to Australia, friends introduced me to Booko.com.au – a website that will search online stores and rate best prices.
Unfortunately, I have had bad experiences with AbeBooks and do not plan to make any future purchases with them. Abebooks is similar to eBay, merchandise is sold through independent seller listings. However, unlike eBay there is no seller rating system to determine if the seller is trustworthy before purchasing.
Here are 2 of my few experiences:
Last year, I bought an international version of Talley and O’Connor’s Clinical Examination from the seller 123 Books
The confirmation email clearly recorded the details of our purchase:
Book Description: Brand New. Original International Edition.
I should’ve taken pictures at the time I received the book – but this is its condition as of a few days ago
As you can see, tape was used to cover up certain areas on the cover and the bibliographical page was torn out. Additionally, a strip of writing across the top of the book was meticulously cut out. Knew right away what they had cut out and covered up. Very easy to guess what happened: another cheaper edition was substituted for the international edition.
I initiated a return and attached the following message:
The book is NOT brand new, nor is it the international edition, but an edition that is not allowed to be sold/exported outside it’s country of origin. The book has been tampered with – tape has been used to cover up said regional publication restrictions (at the bottom of the textbook). In addition, along the entire length of the top of the textbook, a knife has been used to cut out the selling restrictions of the textbook.
Would like to return for a textbook that matches the actual description.
I received this message in return:
Thank you for contacting us.
We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience. We sell brand new books but sometime such cases are very rare due to mishandling during transit or some books escape the mandatory quality checks may be such a copy was sent to you. We are really sorry again about the same.
Now to resolve the issue, we would like to offer you $8 as a courtesy credit and hope you use the book if our proposal is acceptable for you. Please let us know and we’ll proceed with the same.
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Customer Support Team.
The answer made no sense but obviously they weren’t going to take responsibility. I needed the textbook and couldn’t be bothered any further so accepted the $8 refund.
Mike needed the same textbook and ended up purchasing from the same seller (**Edit: My mistake, it was a different seller – Katie and Charlie Book Store – also advertised to be a “Brand New International Edition“). He didn’t care about the tampering but (for kicks) included a message in his order that he expected a “new” book as described – sealed and undamaged.
A short while later, he received his book:
They took his request so seriously that they didn’t cut the book, only taped it. They even went out of their way to put a “New” sticker on his book AND shrink wrap it. What great customer service! *Rolls eyes* Well, we’ve found out what edition our book was!
Didn’t order from them again until recently. I wanted the BRS Pathology book by Schneider which was unavailable on BookDepository so I ended up resorting to AbeBooks – should’ve known better!
Again, I specifically purchased from a seller who listed the book as the “international” edition – this is what I got instead:
What annoyed me the most was that the book was in black and white – how counterproductive to be studying pathology in black and white! And the book actually says the pictures are supposed to be in colour! Gah!
I sent off the following email to the seller, nutsiltab:
Please explain to me why the book I purchased is not as described:
1) Your online description says the book is the “international edition”. The one I received is NOT. It is a South Asian edition – that is forbidden to be sold and distributed outside South Asia
2) The book is in black and white, when the book itself says it is supposed to be in colour.
Received the following helpful response:
Please send us the book back and we will refund you the full money. We have clearly mentioned in description that it is an international edition
I’m sorry, come again? You did not send me an international edition!
When I am responsible for purchasing something I am not satisfied with, I am more than happy to send it back (at my expense) for a refund. What I absolutely hate about customer service is when buyers not only have to lose time (looking for and waiting for their purchase) but also lose money shipping back something they did not pay for.
When I emailed me back requesting for full compensation for shipping costs, I received the following response:
You can send the book to us to USA also to save your money.We are really sorry if you thinking that you will get the USA edition for this price.
Clearly there was no point continuing – nothing I’m writing is getting anywhere. Swallowed my losses and now studying from a black and white textbook instead.
I know that often there isn’t much difference between book editions, which is why I ended up not bothering. It is simply a matter of principle. Sell what you say or take charge and fix the problem! And most importantly, tampering with people’s purchases? A big no no!
It wasn’t until recently when I Google’d to see if other people have had similar experiences and wow! We know better now don’t we? Those who have been lucky and never had problems rated AbeBooks 5/5. Otherwise, check out all the negative ratings: http://www.resellerratings.com/store/ABE_Books
Sorry about the long rant post!
I hope that if any of you lovely readers are thinking of purchasing from AbeBooks – please don’t! Not worth the trouble if you’re one of the unlucky ones! And you also cannot pay by PayPal so you do not have their added protection.
The other company I have mentioned: BookDepository.co.uk is absolutely fantastic! Shipping is free worldwide and they often have store wide discounts. Their prices are usually the best on the market and shipping is extremely prompt. I have only had 1 bad experience with them: one of my items never arrived but after contacting them, they resent the item and I received it less than a week later. Try them out!
Phew, if you’re still here – gold star for you! Thanks for sticking with me!
UPDATE: AbeBooks has emailed to apologize and offer a full refund for the 2 textbooks I mentioned above, please see HERE for the full story