BN stole from my Nook

Yes, you read the title correctly. Barnes & Noble stole from my Nook.

Back story:
Once upon a time (or specifically November 2009) Barnes & Noble was releasing their eBook reader in a market dominated by the powerful giant Kindle. As the underdog, they needed to win over the support of the masses. The B&N Reader could be downloaded for a computer so people could enjoy the digital book experience and hopefully convince them they could not live without a Nook in their life. To sweeten the bribe, there were a vast array of FREE eBooks that customers could ‘purchase.’ The word purchase might be confusing, since it was purchased for zero dollars, but that was Barnes & Noble’s wording in their confirmation email with the confirmation number and a link to the B&N Library online that would hold all purchases.

At this exact time, the true protagonist of the story (me) fell ill with Swine Flu – yes, this was the time of the dreaded H1N1 outbreak. The last week of October 2009 I was trapped at home with nothing to distract my fevered mind. The B&N email announcing the Barnes & Noble Desktop Reader and the free books was like a haloed messenger. My misery was reduced as I re-read many of my favorite classic novels. I had hours and hours to devote to resting and reading, so I filled my B&N library. I dreamed that in the future when eReaders had made advances, I would purchase one, and I would already have the foundations of a great library. Greatness being defined as the classics that have lived through the ages and continue to inspire the readers.

But alas, my dream was crushed. For graduation in May 2011, I received a Nook. I excitedly connected it to my B&N Library. I was equally excited to re-read some of my favorites (it had been 2 whole years since I read them last). Every time I tried to open the books, the evil message appeared “B&N Content Error: we’re sorry. Your NOOK had trouble downloading this item from B&N. Please try again later. If the problem persists, please contact Customer Service“. After a month of wishful thinking, I made the first customer service call. I have called twice to inquiry why – the response was they were “recalled by the publisher” for some implied imperfection. Probably that they were free. Changing any of these literary masterpieces would be a crime, since the author has long been deceased and does not get an opinion in the matter.

The following books have been removed from my Nook library and made unreadable by BN.com. Now I am expected to pay to acquire them again.

Title (Author) Pub Yr Price Range for eBook on BN.com
Emma (Jane Austen) 1816 $0.99 – $3.19
Persuasion (Jane Austen) 1818 $0.99 – $9.99
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Mark Twain) 1889 $0.95 – $13.99
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) 1847 $0.99 – $9.99
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) 1847 $0.99 – $7.99
Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens) 1855-1857 FREE – $8.99
History & Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes) 1755 FREE – $3.9

Range of money owed = $4.91 to $58.13

P.S. My hourly rate is $26 per hour, and this has cost me 2 hours of effort to try to fix; therefore, $52 should be added to the amount owed.

The free classics was one of the big draws when I was deciding between the Nook and the Kindle. I presumed (obviously incorrectly) that I already had a small collection on B&N. I did not want to start from scratch, but now I have had to anyway. Kindle sparked outrage when they rescinded some titles from people’s Kindles in July 2009 – you would think B&N could learn from someone else’s mistake, instead of having to repeat it themselves. I still remember reading the story of the high school student who was doing his summer reading of 1984 and keeping notes in the digital margins. He lost everything. So much of my reading is professional development, and I would be beyond furious if books were rescinded for some trivial reason. Oh wait, that is exactly what has happened. Luckily as a new Nook owner, none of my books had irreplaceable notations.

The publishing date makes a huge difference. The copyright to the novels has expired in the United States, so they can be distributed/downloaded legally, for free. I know this thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg. It might be part of the reason why the action of the ‘publisher’ is so revolting. I can still find the novels as an ePub or PDF file, but those do not navigate as cleanly as Nook books. If B&N doesn’t have to pay to distribute them, why should I have to pay to acquire them a second time?

Another reason this is so revolting is the customer service. I’ve called twice. Neither time the person I talked to was remotely sympathetic or understanding. They have no idea why it is a big deal to have to pay for them now. How would they like it if someone stole from them? If someone gave them a car for their birthday (and therefore they paid nothing for the car) – and I came along a year later and stole that car, I am sure they would immediately file a police report and demand justice. Just because the initial price was nothing does not change the fact it was stolen. Also, it would be nice when talking to customer service for a book store if they actually knew literature – if you haven’t heard of Jane Austen or Mark Twain I don’t believe you are just an average American Joe answering the phones. Maybe it is the cultural difference that resulted in the unfeeling response, or maybe Barnes & Noble doesn’t want to keep their customers. Borders may not be an option any longer, but there is always Amazon.

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About Lisa Butler

Middle school teacher of Social Studies and Spanish, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of blogging and reviewing products. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading, baking, running, or traveling.
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