The biggest ebook issue: quality
February 2, 2011 | 6:18 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Stuck at home for a snow day, I’ve been snuggling up with my ebook reader, and have to my dismay found the experience less than satisfying. I guess my relatively problem-free ebook purchases until now have either been sheer luck, or else I was so blinded by the import of the geographical restrictions bugbear that I didn’t even notice the odd quality glitch—until today. I opened four purchased books up on my ebook reader, and all four of them were riddled with mistakes.
Book 1 is a current best-seller, purchased from Kobo. Its problem seemed to be a line spacing issue. There would be line breaks at odd, random places and also spaces in the middle of words. The book was still readable, but given I had paid a near-paper price for this, I was unhappy and sent Kobo a help request. It was answered by a form letter that explained in great detail how to sync the ‘I’m Reading’ list using the Kobo desktop software—in other words, it was not even remotely about my problem. I replied back to that effect and was told my request would be ‘escalated’ to a level 2 technician.
Meanwhile, a Kobo rep was trolling the Mobile Read forums and sent me a message asking for the ticket number so he could have a look. By the time I was stuck home today and had the chance to reply to him, I had another book to add to the list. This one was clearly the product of an inept, unproofed OCR. The title of the book showed up in random places, words were misspelled, quote marks were missing, as were line breaks…it just went on and on. I added the name of that book to my reply to the nice Kobo man and opened up another book.
And…this book has no apostrophes or quotation marks. At all. It’s completely unreadable. And it’s part of a series, so even giving me a refund on it wouldn’t be a completely satisfactory resolution since the point of a series is having all of them. I added this to my ‘tell Kobo’ file and opened up a fourth Kobo purchase only to find that it too had problems. There were extra periods added after every three-letter word such as and or the. The book was still relatively readable—but at near-retail prices, four books our of four with errors is, to me, unacceptable.
Kobo allows sampling of the ‘first chapter’ of each book, but in nearly every case, the ‘first chapter’ is the copyright page and acknowledgments, so there is no way to tell if the book is of acceptable quality until you buy it and get burned. No customer reviews, either. I have been an avid Kobo customer and have, it appears, been lucky. It also appears that this luck has run out. I can no longer be assured that I will be getting a quality product for my $10 and up. Yes, I could file a helpdesk ticket every time a book has errors. But are they really going to fix them? And will there come a point where, through no fault of my own, I have accumulated too many helpdesk tickets and they just cut me off, like Amazon does? It makes me reluctant to purchase. It makes me reluctant to report and complain. And as a book lover, this makes me sad.
I hope someone from Kobo is reading this. I hope they can clarify, for our numerous Teleread readers, just what their protocol is when they take your money and sell you an inferior product. And I hope that publishers take heed that customers like me, who buy often, are going to buy LESS often unless these matters can be easily solved.