Online book purchase sites review

I have been purchasing a fair amount of books online. This is not a comprehensive review of online sellers in India. Till now, I have tried 4: flipkart, infibeam, bookadda and nbcindia. Of these, Flipkart is undoubtedly best; it beats others hands down on terms of service. If they show that a book is available, you can be pretty much sure that it indeed is.  Their price is generally below the marked price or equal. They deliver for free anywhere in India for orders above Rs. 100/-. This last bit is true for all the others. Their customer support is very good and answer queries about pricing promptly. I have made purchases more than or close to Rs. 3000/- in the last few months. I have also bought some cheap VCDs. Full marks to the team.

Next, I would rate Infibeam. The price of books is generally lesser than that of Flipkart. Their service is also pretty good. I suspect that their inventory management can do with some improvement because it has happened that the book is shown as available but after the order has been placed, I get an email from the customer support saying that they could not complete the order. Refunding has been generally prompt. Customer service is not terrific but adequate. Sometimes, one has to act as the “annoyed customer” to get  response. They sell both old as well as new books. I wish it were clearer if the book being purchased is old or new! This is well worth a wait if one is not in a terrible hurry to get books. They send books in inventory but take some time to acquire books and pass it on to you.

While looking for cheaper and cheaper deals online, i came across Bookadda. It has a user interface very similar to that of Flipkart. It looks so similar that I thought that Flipkart was operating a sister site. Also, the registered office is in Bangalore. The similarity with flipkart ends there. I put an order for a book which was not available with flipkart and infibeam. The book is “introduction to calculus and analysis: volume 1” by Courant. Incidentally, flipkart showed the book as not available and infibeam does not show the indian edition to be available. However, bookadda shows this to be available. As nothing was moving after placing the order for a few days, I emailed customer support and got no response. I called up the local contact number and was told that I would be contacted in half an hour. My cell as well as landline numbers were taken. I often wonder what kind of miserable slugs become these call centre agents who promise all the time but deliver not a whit. Anyway, there was no call in half one or two hours. Generally, I do not like to pursue and pain people but this was annoying me. So I called up again and was told that the book was not available and I would get a refund. No refund status was forthcoming and I called up again to find out how long it would take. I have been promised a refund by today, I do not of course believe it. The amount is not high but nobody like the feeling of being hoodwinked.

UPDATE (20/09/2010)

I got an email about 2 days from the customer care of bookadda expressing regret for being unable to complete their order and have also given a gift voucher worth 50/-. Not a tremendous amouunt but the gesture is appreciated. I could not update this earlier as I was travelling. Will give these guys another shot.

Personal opinion: STAY AWAY, GIVE ANOTHER CHANCE MAYBE.

I placed an order with nbcindia last week. It is too early to say but I fear that it is headed the bookadda way. I hope not because there are some hindi books available there.

Update 25/09/2010

After calling nbcindia’s customer service, they informed me that of the two books I ordered, only one was available immediately. They were waiting for the other book. I do not know how long they would have waited if I had ot called them up. They gave their word to dispatch the available book and refund the amount for the other if the publisher did not get back to them that very day. Apparently, the publisher did not get back and they sent it by Aramex Courier that day. I got it in two days flat.  The book which did not make it: “Manto ki Chuninda Kahaniyan”.

UPDATE (20/09/2010)

I got an email about 2 days from the customer care of bookadda expressing regret for being unable to complete their order and have also given a gift voucher worth 50/-. Not a tremendous amouunt but the gesture is appreciated. I could not update this earlier as I was travelling. Will give these guys another shot.

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Comments

  • Mayank  On September 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Curious,

    On what all parameters do you judge various online bookstores?

    Also, what else do you think can be improved in the existing setup?

    • vskrishnan  On September 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Hi mayank,
      i do not have a strict set of criteria for evaluating the sites; only the commonsense ones.
      1. Good search: this is lacking in most sites.
      2. Display of (non)/availability of books. most sites take the money first and talk about availability later. Interest in procurement.
      3. Speed of delivery and their interest in talking to the courier guys in case there is delay.
      4. Speed of refund in case of non-availability.
      5. Customer support response.

      probably a few more but these are i suppose standard.

  • Smitha  On September 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Very true..Am also a good user of online bookstores..and felt Flipkart and Infibeam is the best..
    Had same issue with Bookadda..i really don’t like their service and now am behind them from past 1 month just to get my books delivered..hmmm.bad luck…

    • vskrishnan  On September 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Their customer service is extremely poor. They hung on to my order for a few days. As there was no status change, I called them up a number of times. They have said that a refund request has been issued but have not got it yet. Although they have given some 50/- coupon, there is very little probability that I will use it. At the very least, I will wait for the refund before I sink more money into them.
      Good luck with your book search. Which book?!

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