Sunday, February 20, 2011

When chickens come home to roost

This week NZ booksellers Whitcoulls and Borders (both now part of the same Australian group) were placed into voluntary administration. Whitcoulls and its predecessor firms have been around for more than 100 years, so this is sad news. I worked for Whitcoulls for three years while attending university so I was predisposed to give them the benefit of the doubt when I experienced problems with their e-book retailing attempts since they launched this nine months ago. They've done a pretty good job of destroying all that goodwill though - here's a sample of my experiences:

* Inability to consolidate the two email addresses Whitcoulls held for me without going into a physical store and getting them to put in a manual request
* Inability to edit or remove an expired credit card attached to my account
* Inability to add a second credit card so that I could actually buy books after my original card expired
* Purchasing e-books that then never showed up in my eLibrary so that I could access them
* Purchasing e-books that then didn't have the advertised epub format
* Support requests being closed as "fixed" without notifying me that they had been closed or, indeed, actually fixing the problem
* Removal of some of the very useful functionality that the platform has (the same platform that Whitcoulls adopted for their website)
* In-store display models of the Sony Reader with no books on them (because why would you actually want to see what it's like to read a book on it before purchasing one??)

Here's hoping the future for Whitcoulls involves new management that have a clue.

In the related realm of print marketing, this time specifically genealogical, could someone out there fill me in on why UK genealogical magazines arrive in NZ with entirely different names? Your Family Tree is on our shelves with a cover proclaiming it to be Your Family History. All the inside pages are still branded as Your Family Tree. Meanwhile, the magazine actually called Your Family History is on the shelves as Tracing Family History (again, the inside pages all show as the original name). These covers are clearly not specifically printed for the NZ/AU region as the pricing still shows in pounds. If it hadn't have been for the "from Nick Barratt and his team" on the cover of "Tracing Family History" raising my suspicions, I would never have realised that this was in fact the very magazine I'd been keen to see for months. Genealogical magazines tend to have confusingly-similar names anyway, so why oh why are publishers allowing this dilution of their brand?


Shauna said...

Same situation here in Australia - most annoying and why do the British magazines change the titles for the Australasian market? I'd like to know.
Thanks for raising the issue.

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