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The Best Features of an E-book Retailer

kittenhug.jpgI receive a few newsletters from ebook retailers such as Fictionwise, eReader, Books on Board and All Romance eBooks. I’ve begun to notice large price discrepancy between ebook prices, depending on the e-tailer. I first thought that only price matters but when I sat down to make out a list of what I looked for in an ebookstore, price was only one component.

In shopping online, the following are important features:

  • Eternal bookshelf. I want to be able to redownload my purchase as many times as I want.
  • Paypal. I think I am twice as likely to spend as a payment option
  • price
  • Wishlist. Where I can store books that I am thinking about purchasing but haven’t quite made up my mind
  • Rating System. I like to see what others are saying about a book that I am thinking about purchasing.
  • Bulk Download. Fictionwise offers this and it is great when you are setting up a new computer.
  • Timeliness. Fictionwise is terrible in that they release books on a Monday instead of Tuesday so their releases are ALWAYS one week behind. I hate that.

Things that I don’t find so important

  • Customer Service. I have found that customer service varies a great deal from very good (All Romance eBooks) to fairly bad (Fictionwise) but that it does not affect my purchasing habits. There is very little customer service to be had from an ebook vendor.
  • Ease of Navigation. I find eReader to have the best navigation system and Fictionwise, one of the worst. eReader is clean and uncluttered with the book covers serving as the primary visual aid. Fictionwise is cluttered and one glance at the front page is enough to send one screaming in the other direction. Again, though, I haven’t been deterred by Fictionwise’s lack of glamour.
  • Publishers. This one is fairly important, but as long as all the main publishers are included, I can find the one book or two that I am interested in by going to the epublishers’ websites.

What do you guys think? What are you looking for in an ebookstore? What is the most/least important feature? Is price the most important aspect of an etailer? I did a price comparison for ebooks from 10 different vendors. You’ll be surprised at who giving you the best bargains. I’ll share that with you next week.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 05:41:52

    If I’m not buying off the publishers website, I buy off Fictionwise because they make it easy for me. I’m one of those people that will pay more for convenience. (Though I have no idea where Fictionwise is in this area. It doesn’t matter. They give me convenience) I buy my micropay dollars at the beginning of the month (my budget) and then I run amok all month long. I do love bulk downloads. I like being able to hold things in my cart. (sometimes I *ahem* exceed my monthly budget and must wait until the next month to buy everything I want) I like the broad variety of titles and genres, fiction and non fiction. Again, one stop shopping. I’m into convenience.
    I am big on customer service. If there’s an issue I want it resolved promptly and efficiently. Sensible organization is important also. We have evolved past a hunting and gathering society and I don’t want to revert when it comes to my book shopping. Pretty much, I buy every book I can in eformat, so a broad range of offerings is vital. In some ways, I’m a loyal shopper as I tend to be loyal to whomever meets my needs first, but if I’m sent out in the world by a lack of content and I find another place that meets all my needs on my journey, I will switch my loyalty.

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  2. Alessia Brio
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 06:35:45

    If the epublisher is on the ball, it gets its new releases uploaded to FictionWise in time for that Monday release so there’s not a week lag. It’s certainly doable (’cause my epub does it 99.9% of the time).

    The “eternal bookshelf” is nice — but x# copies (like ARe) is okay, too. I’d prefer a review system instead of just ratings. I’d also prefer a wishlist, a “customers who bought this book also bought…” display, a rewards/incentive program of some sort, immediate downloads, and a more comprehensible method of showing best sellers & highest rated than FictionWise employs.

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  3. Danielle
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 07:05:33

    I buy my e-books from eBookwise.com the sister company of Fictionwise.com. I have their eReader and I find it easier to just buy my books from them and I know it will download correctly on my eReader. I have written Fictionwise in the past and have had my questions answered with 24 hours. I would love to do what Sarah does every month and buy micro dollars too, but I can never figure out what format I need to buy for my eReader. A couple of other features that I like that is offered at eBookwise.com is their cart items stay in it until I decided if I want to buy the e-book or remove it and my bookshelf there.

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  4. Teddy Pig
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 07:23:59

    I buy tons of ebooks…

    You forgot the biggest issue for me…

    DRM – I will simply stop buying any eBooks from some idiot publisher that thinks using DRM on their eBooks makes it convenient or easy to use for the customer. I will also NOT PROMOTE and NOT REVIEW any DRM eBook, sorry you are a DRM using loser and you need to go away. Follow the iTunes and Amazon model get out of DRM now. PS… Have you seen the new Adobe Digital Editions? It is not even integrated into the reader anymore. CRAP!

    Eternal Bookshelf – I am starting to really appreciate this more and more especially when I know I bought a book but I can not find it.

    Paypal – I am so with you on this I hate re-thinking a purchase because I have to plug in my credit card information AGAIN.

    Rating System – This not so much… since I see a lot of sites let the book’s author sit around jacking the system with crap reviews.

    Ease of Navigation – I totally disagree with you here. I will not step foot in Torquere Press because of their sites confusing and useless nature. I will buy their stuff from All Romance eBooks though.

    Timeliness – I wish sites did their updates at 1AM on whatever day they say they do the updates instead of whenever they get around to it the day of.

    Customer Service – You may not use it much but when you do and it is bad it can kill the interest I have in buying from a site.

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  5. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 08:45:48

    I usually buy from the publisher. However, navigation is huge. I actually passed on a book because I didn’t want the hassle of buying it from the publisher.
    I prefer to buy direct and I’ve never bought anything from Fictionwise. I don’t trust rating systems, though I do pay attention to them.
    Paypal is better and an uncomplicated shopping cart will have me returning. A pain in the neck shopping cart will chase me off.

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  6. eggs
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 18:50:42

    I use an imac, so my choice of ebook store is limited to those who offer books in a non-microsoft format. The eternal bookshelf thing is important to me too, as I use a computer that is shared with little kids who regularly rearrange or delete things for me. I don’t care so much about timeliness, as I’m buying from Australia, so even if a book is a month late in an ebook version, that’s still faster than it will hit the shelves here (if it even hits the shelves in hardcopy).

    eggs.

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  7. Devon
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 21:12:23

    The eternal bookshelf is important to me. Once upon a time my download expired before I opened it. My oversight to be sure, but it ticked me off, all the same. Also ease of navigation. I hate wasting too much time.

    What’s DRM?

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  8. Kaz Augustin
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 22:39:07

    Devon, DRM==Digital Rights Management. It means that a work is encrypted in such a way that it will only work on particular hardware/software.

    I start from the other end. My favourite ebook format is Mobipocket, so I will buy from anyone who sells in that format. I do have one ebook in M/soft Reader but didn’t like it at all. Wasn’t too impressed with Adobe either. When that happens, the book becomes too difficult to persevere with. That’s not fair on the author, I know, but thankfully, Mobipocket is a pervasive format.

    I also definitely recommend joining the Fictionwise Buywise Club. I’ve found it to be good value and I love those Micropay rebates! :)

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  9. Miki
    Jul 30, 2007 @ 22:10:43

    I have reluctantly “caved” on the DRM issue, since I’d prefer not to bring even one more paper book into my house, but so far, all the mainstream publishers insist on DRM.

    I will only buy eReader format, though, because it doesn’t tie the books to the machine. As long as I remember (or somehow notate) the credit card I bought the books with, I can open the book. Can’t say the same for books activated on a particular machine. While some of the others allow you to register various machine’s software codes, that’s only good as long as a booksource remains active to re-register the old bookshelf (learned this one the hard way).

    On the other hand, if an epublisher sells its books without DRM on its own website, but only offers DRM’d versions on Fictionwise…well, I get pissy and won’t buy from either. It’s insulting!

    Funny, but I tend to think Fictionwise is easier to navigate than eReader. Oh, eReader is prettier, I’ll grant you. But have you ever searched for something not by a multi-book bestselling author there? The search algorithm on eReader drives me nuts! And I tend to judge eReader’s customer service as the worst in the industry. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten anything but a canned response from them (since they became eReader, anyway).

    But it drives me crazy when either Fictionwise or eReader give you the canned “ebook selection is driven by the publisher” – when you can prove the book’s already available in ebook format or at the paperback (down from the hardback) price somewhere else! I swear, sometimes I think they don’t even read the emails.

    Only heard of Books on Board in the last day or two. Not sure I really want somewhere else to buy books (even now, I occasionally purchase an ebook on eReader and then turn around and buy it again on Fictionwise! Sheesh.)

    Oh, and for Danielle? If you have the eBookwise reader, the Fictionwise format would be the OEBFF Half VGA (Imp). You cannot, however, automatically upload the books to your reader buy hooking the reader to your computer (or phone cord) and pulling them off your Online Bookstore. You’d have to download the files to your SmartCard (which comes with the reader, these days) and then insert the SmartCard into the reader. You’d need to have a slot on your computer that reads SmartCards, or have an separate card reader (which is what I have).

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  10. Danielle
    Jul 31, 2007 @ 06:10:07

    Oh, and for Danielle? If you have the eBookwise reader, the Fictionwise format would be the OEBFF Half VGA (Imp). You cannot, however, automatically upload the books to your reader buy hooking the reader to your computer (or phone cord) and pulling them off your Online Bookstore. You'd have to download the files to your SmartCard (which comes with the reader, these days) and then insert the SmartCard into the reader. You'd need to have a slot on your computer that reads SmartCards, or have an separate card reader (which is what I have).

    Thanks Miki for the information.

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  11. cjc
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 18:45:38

    @Teddy Pig: I happened to read your comments about DRM and wanted to say that when you spend ten years of your life slaving over a keyboard to present the best work you are able, only to have it instantly available to every pirate on the face of the earth in ten days, you begin to ask yourself is the effort worth it. I can understand you may dislike DRM but to trash what it represents the way you have is to be very shortsighted. We all have our issues but expressing your comments in the manner you have chosen speaks of your ignorance and inability to understand the headaches on the other side of the issue. I would love to have you come over to my place and paint my house for free.

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