Tag Archives: India

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.

Mathematical formalism and learning

This blog entry results from my successive attempts to learn mathematics. Without going much into philosophical discussions on what constitutes “learning”, I will merely mention the obstacles and my comments. My basic degree is in engineering from a Regional College of Engineering, electrical to be specific “EE” as it is fondly known. Anyways, what has always bothered me and perhaps hampered my learning is the sudden jump in formalism from the undergraduate mathematics which is taught in most colleges in India, never mind their claims to be “premier institutes” to the graduate level mathematics needed for decent research work. Worse, there are very few courses for spanning this bridge. The engineering professors teach the subject from application point of view while the mathematics people look down upon “applications”. This is another pet peeve of mine. When mathematicians get hoity-toity about their “abstractness” and sneer down upon applications, I think they should be made to attend a compulsory course on history of their branch of maths. It will be seen that immediately some practical application has stimulated their field. This is not to say that theorists should not be encouraged but acting hoity-toity is not going to help. Most great mathematicians have helped, in form of books/notes/lectures to bring understanding to, if not actually thrill the engineering audience. Point is, maths guys should run some “pep up” course in India and people who cannot make such course should perhaps look reconsider their PhD aspirations. Let us come back to the point on the gap between mathematical formalism in graduate level and the lack of rigour in undergraduate levels. From personal experience, I think some amount of rigour is needed to build one’s confidence, especially if it has taken a beating in the morass of UG maths. The newer approach to learning mathematics should revive interest in mathematics and help in the newer and more mature perspective in mathematics. The crucial point here is the emphasis on formalism. In my humble opinion, mathematical formalism has come to dominate the proceedings to badly that an ordinary engineer is rattled by the formalism which has come to dominate simply things. Talking to most people in mathematics, it gives the impression that they revel in formalism. I do not for one moment doubt the necessity and importance of formalism. To some, building formalism may also be interesting and their life-goal. However, one cannot expect an engineering background student to build his theory, from his point of view to make it (“the theory”) useful for his dealings with the practical world. Any recourse to some commonsensical explanations are now classified as “classical” and mumbo-jumbo formalism, almost like legalese is used for proofs. I was and still am hesitant to air these views in a general audience. However, I recently found another person who also has similar views. He has made his displeasure known in trigonometry. I quote “Set notation and set language have pervaded all discussion, with the result that a relatively simple subject became obscured in meaningless formalism.” He attributes this to the sarcastically titled(in my humble opinion), “New Maths” which was imposed on America by Americans in response to the Soviet launch of satellite to space. Now, I do not know much nor care about USA. They seem to be doing great, New Maths or otherwise. We in India need to look into our system, at least for the graduate level if we are to produce people of any intrinsic value to themselves and society. For this, a major reform is needed in the teaching and presentation of mathematics at a graduate level. This is the summary of the blog entry!