One thing that really surprised me was the rebuying of books. I’ve gotten lazy. I search for a Nook book, I click the purchase link, I’m told I own it.
However, if I have forgotten I own it, and its been reissued under another ISBN – I’m out of luck.
I’ve done this twice now, and had to spend a not insignificant time working with four different customer service chat people to get the books removed and refunded.
What’s so hard about keeping track of your books?
Maybe I’m just lazy. No, I know I am. I pick up books like others buy candy bars or Pokemon cards. I simply can’t remember every single book I’ve bought. And we’ve all become dependent on the machines in our lives to track these things.
Yes, if it’s the same ISBN, bn.com is smart enough to remind me that I own it. Amazon does something similar with their item numbers; I can see when I’ve bought a book or an item before; that notification either reminds me to look for it, or gives me confidence that I am reordering the correct item.
Amazon and bn.com haven’t quite managed similars yet, though. If I buy a 2 pack of fridge light bulbs and later go searching for a single pack, I won’t be pointed by Amazon to the similar if different item. Amazon could solve this (as could bn.com) with some underlying architectural and search changes.
What’s the key to preventing duplication?
Aliasing and item matching.
Amazon does this to some degree; if you look for a book, you will find it, depending on when it was added to their system, displayed in multiple formats, available and linked on the product page. Hardcover, paperback, library binding, Audible book, unknown binding, previous editions, CD audio book, Kindle edition. They don’t quite yet remind you that you already own this item in [an alternative format], but they could.
Barnes and Noble could do this. Alias the ISBN numbers. If someone tries to purchase ISBN-13: 978-0-9836472-1-8, it could remind them that they already own ISBN-10: 0983647208 (not a terrific example, as one is a paperback and the other is the ebook edition). But maybe they want the paperback! So it reminds them, but doesn’t stop them from buying the book.
But what if that book gets turned into a movie? And the book changes publishers, and a larger edition is put out with illustrations, and a new cover picturing the stars of the movie? It may look like a different book, but it’s essentially the same. You click “buy” and now you own two editions of the item in ebook format.
If the ISBN numbers were linked, bn.com could look at your history and tell you something along the lines of “Hey, you have this edition of the book, purchased in January of last year. Are you sure you want another edition of it?”
Sure, buying it again is an option, and a boon for the industry (they’ve already got me rebuying all the books I got at the new and used bookstores of my youth). But it’s really annoying.