This post might come off as (incredibly) whiny to some of you, but if you can’t tell from my weekly Judging posts, I appreciate the cover art and overall design of my books. That’s not to say every book in my library must be pretty. In fact, I love used books and oftentimes when casually browsing, I’m not looking for specifics when it comes to cover art. However, there are several books that I collect multiple copies of, solely for their art and design and other times I see a pretty series or cover design and I want that one!
Recently, I saw the below edition of The Hobbit on someone’s Instagram (naturally I forget whose) and I wanted it.
I had the ISBN, so I went on Amazon and was happy to find it used from a third-party seller for a few bucks. I ordered it and alas, received a completely different cover variant, though the ISBN was the same. I’ve had it up to here (-jumps up in the air in an attempt to hold my hand waaaay higher than my head-) with trying to return stuff to Amazon (that’s a rant for another day) so I just left poor feedback for the seller saying that while the book was in the condition described, it wasn’t the edition I believed I was purchasing. Is that fair? I don’t know, but it seemed like the only place I could complain without requesting a refund because I didn’t want to bother with that.
The sellers kindly reached out to me the next day to explain that they don’t list the pictures, Amazon does. They did offer a refund and I declined and took down my negative feedback. But this is the problem – when buying a book online, the only way I can know what it looks like is by the pictures listed. If there are multiple cover variants and editions linked to the same ISBN that is another problem, but I also think that sellers have some responsibility to accurately display their products! I don’t know how many pages or what the measurements are of a book I’ve never seen physically before, so I have to trust that what the site is telling me is correct. The best way to do that is by the pictures they display. If those are wrong, how else can I verify that I’m getting the edition I want? It’s like, if you bought a blue sweater because that’s what the picture showed and you were sent green instead and the company said, “well all colors of this sweater have the same item number!”
Like an ass, I decided to try again, with a different seller. The book on the left is what I received from Amazon. The book on the right is from a seller on Abe Books! They both have the same ISBN! They’re not even the same size! Before I shelled out another handful of dollars on this edition from Abe Books, I did contact the seller and asked them to check the book and I described the cover art I was looking for. I received the following response:
“Thank you for your email! In order to help you make the best buying decision possible, we provide all the information you need right on the listing page of the book, on whatever market you prefer to shop. Usually, you can just click the title or the picture of the book to get to the details you need. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to check condition or format specifics on every book. Please keep in mind that we list all items by ISBN when possible. If you are looking for a specific cover or edition, we would recommend locating the exact ISBN for that item.”
I didn’t bother to contact them further and just bought the book, pretty much knowing it would be wrong – and it was! Their response was less than helpful, as I already had the exact ISBN. I don’t know jack about how big this seller is or where their stock is in relation to the people who answer their emails, but it’s frustrating all the same. Amazon and other large booksellers can be frustrating and now I’m finding that dealing with different sellers and trying to support what I assume are smaller businesses, is making me just as angry as dealing with the big guys! Needless to say, I’ve given up on trying for that Hobbit unless I happen upon it at a used bookstore, which I feel is unlikely. (Side note: I don’t even see how to leave feedback for the seller and probably won’t bother using Abe Books again.)
In the midst of all this, I placed an Amazon order because my friends and family are awesome and gave me money to buy books. One of these books was Shiverton Hall – a book that sounds good and also looked lovely (HAHAHA stupid Milliebot).
Joke’s on me because guess what came in the mail?
Not only is this cover vastly different from what I ordered, it’s HIDEOUS! Look, if I’d never seen the other cover and came across this book in the store, I’d buy it because it sounds interesting, but I’d grimace at the cover. But instead, I was shown a picture of a cover that I found to be very aesthetically pleasing and instead received…this….
Having the same situation happen to me over the course of like, two weeks, is just too much for my bratty brain to handle. What is going on!?
I realized afterward that this particular book was from a third party seller, but that seller was Book Depository! I’ve shopped on BD many times to purchase specific UK editions of books and have never received a cover other than what I ordered. The frustrating part is that when I put the ISBN for this book (which of course, is the same in the physical copy I received) on Book Depository, it brings me to the same cover art that’s listed on Amazon! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT ISBN THE COVER ART I WANT BELONGS TO.
Here’s where I get extra crazy:
Amazon and Book Depository details:
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (January 22, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
Paperback: 248 printed pages
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.75 inches
The difference is small, between page count and dimensions, but it’s there. As a buyer, were I to purchase from either site, I have no way of proving that what they’ll send will match their cover art. I can’t be expected to do a vigorous internet search on an ISBN every time I want a specific edition. Searching Google brings up the blue cover on Bloomsbury’s own site.
Even searching Shiverton Hall on Book Depository doesn’t show me the cover art they sell. I couldn’t buy this edition from their site if I tried. SO WHERE DID IT COME FROM!?
Ugh. I don’t want to rant about this anymore. What I want to know is, has this happened to any of you? Would you be as mad as I am if this happened? Please tell me I’m not alone! Alternately, tell me I’m being a whiny brat! Also alternately, tell me if you know the secret to ensuring you get the cover art you want and/or why ISBNs have different edition details linked to them.