Jan 13, 2009

Someone peed in the BookSwim Pool

Well, mabye the metaphor isn't apt, but they at least drained the water out of the deep end.  I went in today to update my queue to make sure a specific techincal book was at the top of the queue. It turned out the book wasn't in my queue any more.  I found this very strange but I thought well, it's a new company and they are having growing pains I'll just add it back. It proved to be impossible to do. As far as I can tell all the technical books on programming have been removed from the BookSwim library. 
Technical books are now under the textbook rental plan. The Martin Fowler book I was interested intcosts $42.94 (with shipping) to rent for 125 days. I can buy it used from Amazon for $1.04 more (that includes shipping). Let me see, rent for 125 days and hassle with remembering 125 days from now  to ship it back on time or spend an extra dollar to own it? And you probably think since BookPool crows about no late fees that at least you could return it late right? Wrong. If you're one day late you owe 20% of the LIST PRICE of the book , not the rental fee. That means an extra $13.00 for the book and you then get it for 14 more days.  I think you would be better off with buying it for the extra $1.04 since then you get to keep it for an infinite number of days, but that's just me.   
I imagine the dearth of technical books extends beyond computer science and music  but I didn't check.  I did notice the musical instruction book I had added was also gone and no longer in either the standard or text book rental program.
So here we have a company that I thought was great and honest but it turns out they enticed me to sign up for a year plan (not to mention the two gift certificates purchased for others) with the promise of both technical and musical instruction books. I signed up and added these books to my pool. Then after my fee and gift certificates are bought and paid for, they removed the books from my pool and worse yet THEY NEVER INFORMED ME. Isn't this known as bait and switch? Did they recently hire someone in upper management from the Bernie Madoff school of ethics? 
It gets worse. When my wife and I first read their policies on pledging returns we both thought that when you pledged to them that your books were in the mail they would ship out your next books. We anticipated this would shave 10 days off the turn around cycle after the first shipment.  It turns out either we misinterpreted what we read or they changed the rules without telling us. It's hard to know because it appears the web site has either changed or we can't find the original information we read. I'll assume we misread this one.  They will now not ship our new books until they receive our returned books. Probably not too bad if you are on the east coast, but we are on the west and our first shipment took 10 days to arrive. If the pattern holds we will have an almost three-week turnaround on books.  If things change I'll post again but since my original post had some very inaccurate information. I felt compelled to both go back and correct that post and provide this update. 
1/15/2008 - Follow up posting. One of the things that helped me decide to get a BookSwim membership was the great customer support I got from them (notably from Chip O.) Given the above limitations, I told Chip I didn't feel the product was honestly represented when I bought a year's subscription and I asked for a refund and to be moved to a month by month subscription. Much to BookSwim's credit they agreed to do just that.  Now if I can talk them into adding back technical books and opening a west coast distribution center...

About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.