I wrote earlier about the site issues facing Delphi Classics this week. I had some questions about some of the items in the email they sent to their customers yesterday, and Peter from Delphi Classics was kind enough to reply very promptly:

“Thank you for your email. It has been a very difficult time for us here lately! Unfortunately, last Friday our webhost company deleted from their servers the entire files of several websites, including the Delphi Classics store. This was an error which we had no control over. We have managed to salvage web page information, eBook files and other data, but all customer accounts and order details were lost. The server on which we stored the backups was also affected, losing the details of thousands of orders and accounts. We have been working hard over the last five days to build a completely new website, with improved performance and features, as well as a more secure location. Sadly, we are simply unable to restore your previous account details and you will need to create a new account to make a new order. When registering a new account, you can re-use the same username and password if you would like.”

Peter goes on to clarify a few points I wanted his feedback on.

Q. Why are they asking for order numbers for customers with past purchases?

A. They have local backups of all saved emails, and can match up your order info upon request for books which get updated in the next 12 months. If you don’t know the order number, they can find it for you; but if you do, that will be faster and easier for them and will expedite the restoration of that book.

Q. What happens once the promised 12 months of updates is done? Will customers have to repurchase any books which weren’t updated in that time?

A. The short answer: yes, they will. Peter says: “I know this is frustrating. We want to help customers more, but we regret this is the best we can offer. An update service is not an indefinite service we can offer ‘forever’, especially considering the very low price we charge for our products and the generous special offers we also give. But we will help customers with new updates from now until next January.”

Q. How can customers be assured that their new accounts will be safe from future problems?

A. Peter says: “Only the back ups of our site itself, customer data and accounts were completely wiped. Let me assure you, this has been an absolute nightmare for us over the last week and was by no means intentional on our part. We have now implemented a new system where all our website data and records are backed up and stored in multiple locations, locally and on different web hosts. We sincerely apologize that this has happened. This is a very unfortunate situation, without an easy solution. But we are trying our best to put things right. We shall continue to run special offers for customers with huge savings over the coming months.”

My response: I want to thank Peter and his team for their quick response, both to my email and to their customers in trying to get the site up and running again as quickly as possible. I can only imagine what a nightmare this must have been for them, and I empathize with what they must be facing on their end.

With that said, I am not completely satisfied with their response. Specifically, I think the one-year time limit on the updates is completely unfair. It doesn’t matter that this wasn’t their fault. It doesn’t matter that the books will be inexpensive to purchase again. When customers bought these books, they were presented as unfinished versions which would be added to over time as new works enter the public domain in the customer’s country, and as errors are flagged and corrected. Customers should be entitled to the ongoing service they were promised.

When Fictionwise went bust, I lost cloud access to over 400 books, which I had thankfully backed up myself and still could use. But those books were sold to me as finished products. Yes, it irked me that my American sister could transfer them all to a new B&N account with no questions asked but I, in Canada, could not. But that’s all it was, an annoyance—I had my local copies and the books were published, sold and done. But that’s not what is going on here. These books were specifically sold with the expectation that updates would be available at any time for past purchasers, and I am disappointed that Delphi Classics won’t honor that request.

I appreciate that this was an unexpected calamity and that restoring everyone’s stuff would be a lot of work for them. But I want them to appreciate that for me, my books are an investment. I could pay $2.99 to replace a single book and it wouldn’t break me, but I own nearly their entire catalog—the poets series, the art series, and many of the complete works collections. A small sum to replace, multiplied by the quantity of books a frequent customer like me might buy, is not such a small sum anymore.

I know that restoring everyone’s purchases will take time, and I can be patient if I have to wait for it. But I’d like it to be done. With all due respect to Peter, I am going to mail him a list of all the books I know I have, and ask him to send me the coupon codes now, in one fell swoop. Once I know that all my past purchases are safe, and not just the ones they deign to update in the next 12 months, then I will think about becoming a customer again.