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August 11, 2004

Textbook horror

This summer, just like last year, I spent some time in the Amazon marketplace looking for good deals on used textbooks. I've had pretty good success, both in price and in quality, but the package I got in the mail yesterday was such a shock, that I'm inclined to take back everything good I've said about buying used books on-line.

Yesterday, the crim pro textbook I ordered finally arrived only it wasn't really a book anymore. I knew something was fishy when I picked up the package. It felt like a big three-ring binder. And it was.

Someone had removed all the pages from the binding, three-hole punched them and then inserted them in the binder. The front and back covers of the book were inserted in plastic sheets at the appropriate places and the spine of the book was in the spine of the binder.

I emailed the seller right away basically saying for $60 I expected a textbook, not a binder. Maybe if I'd only paid $15 it would have been OK, but not for what is only $10-15 less than the bookstore used price. I threw in something about "unacceptable condition" and "demand restitution or specific performance," too.

The seller emailed back saying "I apologize for the mistake..." Mistake? Oops, I sent you a binder full of textbook pages, rather than a textbook? Oops, I accidentally ruined the binding on the book and sent it to you anyway? Mistake, my ass.

I'm getting a full refund which is fine, but now I'm stuck having to buy the book at the bookstore since that class starts on the 23rd and there are no more decent used editions online. I'd be leery anyway. Sure I could use it, but only if I got about $40 back. Plus, Crim Pro is the last of five classes I have on Mondays and Tuesdays and I don't really relish the thought of lugging around a huge binder along with the rest of my books.

Posted by Half-Cocked at August 11, 2004 09:26 PM


Don't discount the binder format.

I picked up a (free) copy of one of my textbooks a la binder halfway through the year when my original went missing.

It actually worked great. Usually, I scanned it in and did the reading on my tablet (with my notes all there electronically). When I didn't have time to actually scan it, I was still able to take out the necessary pages, clip then, and ended up carrying something much smaller and lighter than I would have comapred to the full book.

But then, my copy was free - not almost what the bindered copy cost :)

Posted by: Tim Marman at August 12, 2004 09:37 AM

I would be pissed if I bought a book used and it came that way...however, let me state for the record that I actually did that to ALL my books last year. We are in a brand new school, so brand new that for the first seven months we didn't have lockers and so had to carry all our stuff with us everywhere. I cut my books, put them in binders, and then only took the pages I needed every day in one sort of consolidated binder. It worked pretty well for me...and I don't mind cutting the books because I don't really care about keeping them nice anyway. But yeah, if I bought one off the internet and it came that way, I would be upset. Also, pretty much EVERYONE at my school does this, not just me. Really.

Posted by: energy spatula at August 12, 2004 02:29 PM

ES, no kidding? I've never heard of doing this before. It does make sense, at least with used books you know can't be resold.

Posted by: Steve at August 12, 2004 04:16 PM

I would say roughly 75% of my class did it...even with books that could be resold...eventually our poor little backs just wore out from lugging 50lbs of books everywhere and the petition for us to each get our own sherpa went nowhere...so, book cutting was the perfect solution. I will admit I felt kind of weird and guilty the first time I did it though...destroying textbooks -- horrors!

Posted by: energy spatula at August 12, 2004 04:38 PM

I've heard of a lot of people who do that. Sounds like a good system, though I may be too lazy to do it myself. I didn't even have the motivation to look for good used books for my first year. So most of the books I purchased are completely new.

Posted by: Ex Mea Sententia at August 13, 2004 01:44 AM