When it comes to e-book version of the classics, libraries mostly seem to have cheaped out and gone for very inexpensive versions that’re usually based on Project Gutenberg texts. This means that the translations are often old and the quality is bad. Which means until now I’ve largely, particularly for English language classics, relied on directly downloading the texts from the Gutenberg website.
Recently though I came to the conclusion that my reading would benefit from more annotation and background, so I’ve started to put down money to buy the Penguin Classics or Oxford Classics versions of various books, and it adds up, sheesh. I mean the quality of my reading experience is better, but it is odd to pay money for something I used to get for free. For instance I just downloaded the Oxford classics version of Emma, because I decided when I rereaded I wanted to get all the downlow on the political and cultural shit that I just to just intuit (or Google) during the course of my reading.
Anyway, I can’t believe how much money I’ve given to Amazon in my life. My Kindle library is like 500 titles long. I’ve read about 200 of those, but the remainder could easily be my entire reading for 1 or 2 years. And yet I still continue to acquire books.
Sigh. Buying books feels better than buying other consumer goods. In many cases it’s also a lot cheaper. But it’s still a form of consumerism.
So my SF writer buddy Alex Schvartsman wrote a blog post about the trouble he’s been having with Square (the online payments processor). Amongst his complaints was the terrible customer service at Square and a lack of communication on their part. Then the post went viral (getting picked up by Gawker, amongst others). Which, predictably led to Square’s customer support team getting in touch with him, and, eventually, sending him the money that he’d lost.
This is a great story about the power of complaining on the internet. Because when you complain on the internet–and especially when you complain about a tech company–you’ll often get results that you cannot get through normal customer service channels. Companies are very sensitive to the power of word-of-mouth and viral marketing, and they realize that negative press has much further penetration than good press. For instance, everyone knows what Comcast is an awful company with awful customer service. How do we know that? It’s just the sourceless aggregation of all the complaints we’ve ever heard about them.
I also have a story about the success of complaining about the internet!
In the fall, my Kobo e-reader stopped working. Now, I’ve had a number of failures with Amazon e-readers (maybe I am just hell on e-readers) and in each case, they’ve replaced it. Since the Kobo reader had quit working so soon after I bought it (and I was still within the warranty period), I expected that they’d replace it as well. However, they refused and insisted that the damage had been my fault. So I wrote a blog post and then I took to Twitter with the following stream of tweets.
Would not recommend buying an @kobo reader. Mine stopped working after 5 months. $200 down the drain.
It was not an accident that I included @kobo in all of my replies. The whole reason for spewing out that many whining and aggravated tweets was so somehow get the attention of the company. And, sure enough, I woke up the next day to the following tweet:
@rahkan Hey there, we just saw your tweets. We can help you here. Do you have an incident number we can refer to? Let us restore your faith.
And after going back and forth with them for a month or so (Kobo’s customer service is pretty bad even when they’re trying to help you), they finally replaced my eReader at no charge (besides shipping!)
There you go. Personally, my complaints didn’t get nearly the penetration that Alex’s did. My tweets were favorited and retweeted by no one. And I only have 500 or so Twitter followers. But that’s enough to get some redress when you really want it.