Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't Buy From Bookeen (Andy)

Back when I first thought I was going to be joining the Peace Corps, the tech geek in me asked, "What gadgets do I absolutely need?" Top of the list: ebook reader.

I searched around a lot for one that I liked. It needed to use E-Ink (or some other very low-power display) -- that eliminated the first generation of readers. It needed to have a simple interface -- the Kindle was way too ugly. It needed to be relatively cheap -- under $350. It needed to not be Sony -- I was still (and still am) ticked off about the rootkit debacle. I landed on the Bookeen Cybook Gen3.

Fast forward to a week after my move to New York. I unpack my new toy, excited to bring it onto the subway. This will be a new era of reading my way-too-large collection of digitized books.

While I'm waiting for the train, I whip it out and see that the display is cracked. Fair enough. I'd thrown it into my mail carrier bag, which had been dropped, stomped upon and repeatedly brutalized during the move. The display is delicate -- I knew that -- and I didn't treat it with the respect it required. Andy sad.

So I paid the one hundred fifty damn dollars to have the thing shipped to France and fixed. Lesson learned. I went to my grandmother's and fashioned a case for the thing. I started taking extra good care to keep it out of explosions, collisions and stiff breezes. I took good care of my toy.

Fast forward again, if you can handle it, to our first week in the Peace Corps. We were given the opportunity to put all of our electronics into storage while we got accustomed to our new villages. They weren't saying, "You're gonna get your stuff stolen" or anything, but they thought it best not to add "could lose hundreds of dollars worth of electronics" to the list of fears plaguing new volunteers. So I put up my Cybook.

Having learned my lesson, I didn't simply hurl my Cybook into the bin of volunteers' laptops and consumer electronics. I placed it first into the soft, foam sleeve in which it had been returned to me the first time the display cracked. I then placed it into the cover my grandmother had made. Next, I placed it into a pillowcase and wrapped it very carefully to provide padding on every side. Then a comforter. I made sure it sat at the top of the bin. Guys, that's a lot of protective layers.

Imagine my dismay when I got the damn thing back and the screen was cracked again. Guys, that's a lot of disappointment.

I wrote to Bookeen.

Greetings Bookeen support staff!

In June of this year, I contacted you about a crack in the screen of by Cybook Gen3. After sending it back to you, you quickly repaired it and returned it to me for what I considered a high but understandable price. Thank you!

I've recently joined the United States Peace Corps, and am living in rural South Africa. During transit, it appears that the screen to my reader was again cracked. I say "it appears" because upon arrival, the reader was packed away and put into storage for two months. Only a week ago was I able to dig it out and take a look. I was surprised, because I had packed the reader in a hand-made case and placed it within the folds of a thick comforter.

It was my hope that during my stay in South Africa, I would rely heavily on my Cybook for entertainment and sanity. Unfortunately, living off a volunteer's stipend, I won't be able to afford repairs for the same price I paid last time.

Is there anything Bookeen can do to help me out?

Thank you,
Andrew Kasper

Two weeks passed without a response. I had to write to them to remind them, "Hey, dudes, customer with a legit problem here." They finally wrote back, asking for a picture of the device. I sent them the picture, and they responded:


There is no doubt from the picture that the device has suffered from an impact on the right side.

We consequently will not be able to repair the Cybook at our own charge.

Please let us know if you wish to proceed to repair. We will do our very best for the unit to be repaired in brief delays.

Best regards,
Bookeen Support Team

A perfectly reasonable but nonetheless frustrating response on their part.

Although Bookeen isn't completely in the wrong here, it just doesn't make sense for me to repair my ebook reader again. For starters, the Cybook Gen3 couldn't survive what were essentially optimal storage conditions without a damaged display; either the first repair failed, or the thing's a piece of crap. Second, any company that takes two weeks to respond to a customer service email isn't really worthy of my business.

I really appreciate how kind Bookeen's customer service representatives were to me whenever they responded to my emails. I appreciate that the company has innovated (and continues to innovate) the ebook reader. I even appreciate that the repairs are expensive, and that although Bookeen charged me a lot, it was still a fair price. Guys, that's a lot of appreciation.

But guys, I'm going to stay away from Bookeen and it's products. I recommend you do the same.

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