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Thursday, May 06, 2010

David Sedaris, Are You Out There?

David Sedaris is one of my favorite living humorists now that Douglas Adams is dead. Good humor is like good scotch. It has a little burn and a subtle complexity that makes it great without hitting you over the head. David understands this. The first book of his that I read was “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” I had already heard his pieces on NPR and was a big fan, so when I saw the book on sale at Borders, I jumped at it. I was not disappointed.

I won’t bore you with my rendition of what is so funny about his books; just buy your own copy…if you can. Oh, for you luddites, buying a copy of Sedaris’ books should be easy. Hell, you can find them in any second rate bookstore. But, god help you if you want to get a copy for your non-Kindle ereader. I’ve got Mobi Reader on my Blackberry. I’ve read a number of books entirely on that little screen that everyone says I’m crazy for using to read books. Hey, my eyes suck and I don’t have a problem with it, so get off my back!

The Mobipocket eBookstore is very easy to use and your books are always right there (unless you delete the wrong file off your Blackberry and then you seem to be screwed). So, there I was, clicking the Buy button on When You Are Engulfed in Flames. The screen tells me that I already bought the book and that’s why they are charging my credit card $0. I’m thinking, “Bonus, a free book!” Then, it asks if I want to download it and I’m thinking, “hot damn, here it comes!” I’m thinking wrong. Nothing comes, except a message telling me the book is not actually in my library like that lying sonofabitch screen I saw before.

No worries, I spend the 20 minutes hunting through the site for a way to complain for help and send a message to the support center. Two days later, I get a response from Amazon. Seems they bought Mobipocket eBookstore. The email says (I’m paraphrasing here), “you stupid idiot. You obviously don’t know how to use a computer or do something so simple as to log into the correct account to order a lousy ebook.” I emailed them back to tell them that I only have one account, so I don’t know how I could have gotten the wrong one, but they must not have liked my tone, because I never heard back from them. A couple weeks later, after they cooled off, I emailed again and explained in minute detail everything they needed to know to conclude that I wasn’t a stupid idiot after all. They responded that the $0 thing was their way of saying, “even though the book is listed as in stock on our site and you can download the demo to preview the book, we don’t actually sell it.” Great.

No worries, my Mobi Reader supports many bookstores. Turns out Franklin.com has When You Are Engulfed in Flames on their site. So, I bought it. It cost $20, but, hey David, you’re worth it. After an hour of struggling with some really bad instructions and unintuitive interfaces, I finally got a message on the screen telling me that that I had an Error -1: Retailer not authorized. Hmmm…they took my money…they said I bought the book, but I couldn’t download it. Maybe, in the end, I am a stupid idiot. So, I humbled myself and emailed for support. After two days (this seems to be the ebook industry’s idea of “acceptable support turnaround”) I received a reply (paraphrasing again), “geez we are so sorry, but we don’t really sell this book, but don’t worry. We’ll give you your money back in a week or two.”

So, David, I know you hate technology and you’re probably behind this evil plot to rid the world of “e” versions of your book, but c’mon, give us technogeeks a break. Some of us actually have a sense of humor – or at least appreciate a good one when we see it. Lighten up!
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