Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Book Depository

The Book Depository is a UK-based enterprise with world-wide ambitions. Basically, it's a bookselling business. It aims to deliver books to the customer cheap(ish) and fast; and not just today's bestsellers either, but highly obscure books too. It works, as I can testify from a recent test.

To call this enterprise ambitious is an understatement. If you want to know more, take a look at the About Us page on the company's web site.

You will note that the underlying technology is being developed by a team at the University of Bath (one of the UK's better universities, specialising in science and technology), and the research is being part-funded by the UK's Engineering & Physical Science Research Council. What that means, in plain English, is that the underlying science is considered highly respectable and vitally important. The Book Depository is committed to making all programming open source.

The average customer, however, is not going to be too concerned by that. What your typical punter wants is a copy of a given book, at the cheapest possible price, and to have it delivered as near instantaneously as possible. By interacting with other retailers and distributors, the Book Depository seems to be getting as close to that ideal service as anyone could reasonably ask. Their software aims to work out the optimised purchasing route of each isbn, depending on cost, availability and historical service delivery, and then places orders.

Unless I've been more than usually sleepy, the Book Depository has been attracting little public attention. Instead of pumping out bullshit publicity, it's just been developing systems that actually work, and setting up arrangements with other companies, who also want (naturally) to maximise their business.

I first came across the company when I looked for a book on Amazon, and found that the Amazon page showed that the cheapest way to get it was to use the BD. I thought this was very odd, but did not complain, especially when the book arrived the next day.

Independent booksellers will not like me saying all that, however, and the truth, I fear, is that the BD constitutes yet another serious threat to your friendly neighbourhood independent -- and indeed to that favourite secondhand shop of yours, where you cough your way through the dust to unearth (you hope) long-lost treasures. Before long you will find that the BD will have reprinted that 1930 item that you were looking for, and a lot more besides. POD, naturally.

The BD has recently reported 3rd year sales of £24 million, £12 million up on 2005/2006, showing a treble-digit increase for the second year running.

There is a massive amount of material to explore on the BD web site -- too much to describe here. Though you could begin with the very sensible article by Mark Thwaite on the possible death of publishers.

And don't think the BD isn't relevant if you live in the US. At present they are able to ship 700,000 US books from 8 fulfillment centers across America, and the range will doubtless increase fast.


Anonymous said...

Clicked the link to the BD to see what they were charging for my tomes.

Pah! Just like Amazon they are overpriced (anything up to a couple of quid) tho' they do show the rrp as being £7.99... Free shipping? hmmm...

Anonymous said...

I did the same and I'm impressed. Including postage they beat Amazon buy a quid (in the unlikely event that someone actually buys the thing).

What I liked most is the way, after clicking on the book image, it picks up Amazon reviews and displays them much less fussily than Amazon.

Free postage is a must online. do the same while Amazon persist with those ridiculous deals where one has to buy £15 worth of stuff to qualify. Amazon is determined to throw away it's business.

I'll be shopping there from now on.


Richard Havers said...

I've used them frequently and it's a great service.

Anonymous said...

Book Depository are one of the more reliable mega-listers on Amazon, because they actually do hold some stock and are not trading from the kitchen table as with certain infamous drop-shippers.

The company was formed by ex-Amazon employees, initially to feed off the greater body of Amazon and grow outwardly - which they are doing.

Amazon just loves third party Marketplace sellers like Book Depository which give them a monthly listing fee, 15% commission and a wedge of the AZ shipping charge.

How will all this affect me as an indie - far less than you would think. The jungle is full of predators : a skilled indie can duck and dive away from them, while the corporate listers (Borders, B&N, Indigo, Tesco's,Waterstone's) fight for their market share.

All this waffle about POD demand 'long-tail' copies ever being priced less than most s/h oop is pure bollocks fantasy-land for the dreamers.

Don't tell too many people Michael, but there is very clear evidence that the indies are thriving in their real bookshops because customers appreciate being able to browse, handle the stock and speak to experienced knowledgable staff - even the grumpy old bastards like myself.

Book Depositiory will get to a certain size and then stagnate like all 400lb gorillas, because the 600lb kings of the jungle only tolerate the 400lb gorillas existence for the time period when they are useful to their aspirations and control dominance.

Anonymous said...

I love BD! I've been using them for some months now. (And we don't have any indie bookshops where I live, so I don't feel guilty at taking sales from the big boys.)You don't have to wait to clock up enough money to qualify for free shipping either and most times their prices are cheaper than Amazon.

When I want a book I want it asap -and BD does that.

I don't understand Slim's comments. Is s/he being ironic?

Ed said...

I've been singing the praises of the Book Depository to all I meet with an interest in buying books, since I discovered them earlier this year. In fact I had intended to blog about them later this month; might still do so and direct people here.
They list on Amazon Marketplace which is were I frist fund the name. Then Googled it out of curiosity and discovered they traders in their own right. So I could get the book anyway, and not have to pay the Marketplace postage.
I've used them several times since and they are my first port of call when looking for US published books; their prices are usually so much cheaper than Amazon for the UK-based buyer of these.

Anonymous said...

Sally said...'I don't understand Slim's comments. Is s/he being ironic?'

Nope he ain't - he's being annoyed.

The rrp for all my books is £7.99 and it bugs me that sources like BD and Amazon hike the price (to as much as £9.99) and then offer 'free' shipping.

Gav's Studio said...

To Slim:

If your RRP is wrong this is nothing to do with Amazon - you need to have someone check with Nielson to make sure their database shows the right price.

Ms Baroque said...

'Fulfillment centres'? Oh my God.

Ms Baroque said...

Hmm, okay. I just went over there and typed in searches for four books I want. They're like my Peck, Stewart and Grant, in that they're always the same ones. I still don't have them because they all seem to run in at least the £30-40 bracket, secondhand, and if anyone has anything cheaper than that I'll be very happy!

Here are my search results on the Book Depository:

poems of Harry Fainlight: unavailable

poems of Rosemary Tonks: unavailable

Mercian Hymns, by Geoffrey Hill: unavailable (now, for this there is no excuse)

The Brontes Went to Woolworths: unavailable.

On Abe and Amazon you can at least GET them, if you have the money.

Anonymous said...

The logo of the Book Depository "all books available to all" is surely a worthy one, and any service which brings people closer to their favourite read is definately a welcome one, thoguh price is of course a big consideration.

Jon Jermey said...

My experience is the same as Ms. Baroque's. 'All books' seems to mean, as usual, 'all books published within the last three years or so'. Let me know when they get John Rhode, JJ Conington, John and Emery Bonett, Timothy Fuller, Anthony Abbott, etc. etc. Till then I'll stick with ABeBooks, BookMooch and Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I've used BD for months now, and it's had nearly every book I've wanted, and sent it to me, on the other side of the world, within a week. For a lot less than it would cost at the local chain store. This includes several old/unusual titles -- not just the latest bestsellers.
Plus they're ever so polite.

Ed said...

"On Abe and Amazon you can at least GET them, if you have the money."

However, they offer a second-hand book service, whereas the Book Depository is solely for NEW books, as in not second-hand.
The only real criticism I have is they don't provide pre-order service for forthcoming titles.

Anonymous said...

I have some questions about BD. Are the books used or new? Furthermore I would like to know if it is possible not to pay by credit card? I don't have one, therefore I don't know what to do!
Please help me!!!

Anonymous said...

I use BD on and off when shopping for old used sci-fi. There's a lot they don't have, but some they do, and so far I've been satisfied.
The have free shipping international, which is great, since I'm in Denmark and often pay four times as much for the shipping as for the book itself. Which makes me feel ridiculous. But then often the book price on BD is that much higher that I think the free shipping is actually just calculated into the price. It still makes me feel better to have the final price up front and visible instead of a nasty surprise when Iøve placed my order.
I think they're quite good. :)

Marcus Dyson said...

Book Depository have totally shafted me this Christmas. They list items on PlayTrade with a quoted delivery time of 4/5 days. But I ordered them on December 12th, and on the 20th they are not here. No phone number on their website, and they aren't responding to my emails. So it's beginning to look as if my Christmas presents are not going to be here on time, and they don't seem to give a damn about customer service.

Anonymous said...

I have always found the BD excellent.Recent experience over Christmas period book I ordered had not arrived.My e mail query promptly answered-the book had been sent but had not arrived.Offered refund or another copy-No Q asked.Duplicate was posted and arrived 2 days later

Anonymous said...

My experience is bad. They said they had books - I waited 2 weeks no show. I emailed them and got no reply. Emailed again and this time they replied to say they didnt actually have the books and I had been advised already that my card had been refunded? When I saw my refund on my card statement it had been made on the day I asked why I hadnt got my books!
The few books I have had from them were all packed very poor - none arriving mint. I suggest you buy your books from the professionals - there are plenty out there!

rebeka, said...

It kinda bothers me to see people criticizing such an amazing enterprise. I wonder what amazon or Abe would do if after a book being lost on the mail.. they would just like BD apologize and ask if you would wont a refund or a re-send?
I have NEVER had one single problem with BD and I am totally sure that their increasing success is only a proof of their competence.
I have recommended to all my friends and all were very surprised with the amount of art titles they have.

Anonymous said...

Well here goes! I decided to order through Amazon Marketplace (The Book Depository) to save some money. Don't like the blanket £2.75 shipping.

Emailed BD and they told me it was coming from America, in 4-5 working days. I ordered last Saturday, so I'd hope to have it by Friday/Saturday. I will post here with results...

I ordered a book by Patrick Radden Keefe, called "Chatter", about the global echelon surveillance network.

I'm hoping to go to Ben Nevis soon, to do some fitness training, so hopefully it will have arrived before I go up there, as I want something to read at night.

Anonymous said...

I think much of the criticism here is a little pedantic - if I want a serious book and its not offered here then I shop at a serious book store for "proper" literature! However if I want books for my children or for my local book club and they are available on the BD site then I simply order them there. They seem to me to be much cheaper than the RRP available on book purchases here in Australia and I have been very pleased with their postage service, the last two books I ordered arrived here in 4-6 days as promised.

Carbon emissions of course is another issue altogether of course, perhaps we should be discussing that instead!

Anonymous said...

I've only just found out about the free shipping and BD. I had assumed it didn't free ship to Australia. On my last amazon order of aus$130 it would have saved me aus$30 although one book is not available.

As to Amazon refunds - I had an aus$200+ order go astray - amazon refunded with out any fuss or bother. I usually get amazon packages in about 27 days although it can take longer. USA internal post is the killer - its so slow.

Anonymous said...

I used to swear by Amazon (I'm a bibliophile and buys from Amazon like 200 books per year for 7-8 years).

Now, I've quit using them.

See my review at Epinions:

Unless you don't mind Amazon dumping ten books into a box and mailing them to you without any protective packaging, please order from Amazon. I agree - Amazon's price is good. Only if you don't mind receiving your books with dog-ears, crushed pages, bent covers, or even dents in corners. I had even received hardcovers with torn jackets and dented corners (and it takes a lot to crush those hardcovers!).

Now, I'm using the book depository and other smaller businesses.

yours sincerely,
Victor C.

Geodali said...

I have been buying from BD for more than 2 years now from far away Australia where booksellers here rarely discount anything. The killer for me before discovering BD was postage from either UK or US, but no more! The savings in postage, per book, are equivalent to about one quarter of the book price here. Add to that the discount on the price of the book, in comparison to the fixed price here in Australia and you are looking at serious savings. Add to that the benefits of the efficient service. Books arrive here within 7 to 10 days, Amazon at least a month. Lost only one book in the mail; after not arriving here in two weeks, they immediately send me a replacement, no fuss at all. Once they had a price higher than Amazon, although with the savings in postage it would still have been cheaper to get it from BD. I pointed out to them the discrepancy, and soon the price was adjusted downwards! They are great and I hope that they will continue and prosper with their approach to book distribution.

Anonymous said...

I just admire to get this offer kindle coupon

Tan Siew Hock said...

I'll have to leave a bad comment for BD because more than once, they sent me books in damaged conditions.

Buying from BD is like gambling because more often than not, books come in damaged condition. This is because they use padded envelope only to ship books worldwide.

Contrary to those people who said they got replacement free, unlucky ones tend to be more in numbers. Some like me did not get replied when queried regarding replacement.

Surely someone or someones from BD are posting positive reviews somewhere.

Geodali said...

Again I will run to the defence of Book Depository in response to the previous comment by Tan Siew Hock. During the three years by now that I have been buying from BD and the one year that my daughter has been buying from BD we have not had any complaints about damaged books being delivered. Yes, the smaller paperbacks are posted in bubble wrap envelopes that appear to be doing their job satisfactorily, but the larger hard back books arrive in cardboard packs, again in very good condition.
As for their customer handling, I find them quite satisfactory. One book that did not arrive was replaced immediately after I wrote to them. I had a couple of issues of ordering books that they could not deliver, requiring refunds that caused a small loss due to buy/sell credit card rates, but that can happen when stocks are not updated automatically by the system, or when suppliers run out of available copies.
Looks like Tan Siew Hock has suffered a run of bad luck. And I am not posting on BD’s behalf; I am just a happy customer!

Anonymous said...

Ordered some books today. Will post when I get them. Agree with the comment that when you're in Australia , the free postage makes the world of difference. Stores here are a rip off. Having said that the proof is in the pudding. Will have to hold my comments on the service until the books get here.

mslvoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mslvoe said...

Bookdepository is EXCELLENT!!!

I live in Malaysia and so far I don't have problem with BD. I’ve been buying from them for the past 3 months and very satisfied with their service.

All my books arrived within 5 - 10 working days. So far it's in good condition unless the postman was extra careless with yours.

JamieF said...

Have been using BD from Australia for a few months now. It is superb. Longest delivery time from order has been 2 weeks, quickest was 9 days.

Local stores are more expensive off the shelf and take much much longer to order in if out of stock. Amazon is too expensive with its delivery charges.

With BD I can buy a single book at any time, no waiting to get a group of books to try and make it cost effective on shipping.

Thank goodness for the BD!!!

And for Australian buyers who think you might be able to get a better deal shopping online elsewhere, take a look at, it finds the cheapest book for you and it has in my experience always been BD (either UK or US).

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Book Depository Fan said...

I'm a big fan of Book Depository due to their free shipping. I understand that Amazon is great if you live in US/UK/Germany etc. but for countries like mine, the delivery costs Amazon charges are INSANE! (And I still wanna get my fantasy books in original language :).

So I use Book Depository almost exclusively now, no competition.

Rich said...

I'm a great fan of the Book Depository, having ordered tens of thousands of books from them to be delivered to Australia.

I would suggest that Australian users also consider checking the prices on their US website as the different exchange rates can lead to further savings.

Anonymous said...
Customer Services telephone number : UK (44) 01452 307905.
This does not appear on their website.
Infact no telephone numbers do.
BEWARE!! Any returns are postage paid by the customer.
I won't be using them again.

Anonymous said...

I in Finland used to love them. No hidden charges .. unlike ordering through Amazon where the price always seems to go up (different VAT in Finland?). Nice to use the Post Office, who know where we live, and have same price for single packages instead of using couriers. But this time my order was cancelled without notification and it is taking some time to reinstate it. Will my children get their new books for Xmas? NO. Really maddening. Really check on your order; mine was confirmed then was cancelled. Graham Lees

Anonymous said...

All my orders have always delivered on time, any problems their staff have always been helpful.
I just love BD!! Can't believe all you haters! Kinda leaving it a bit late for delivery for Xmas aren't you? I can see the last posting dates they've put up. Seems like your own stupid fault really for leaving it so late to order.

Anonymous said...

Placed a one book order the very beginning of November. It's December 22 now and still nothing. All attempts to contact BD have not been successful. The phone number referenced above has apparently been disconnected. Over a month to get me one book seems very reasonable, and yet it seems my mother won't get her present in time for Xmas. I would recommend against this company.

Anonymous said...

I have just called that phone number, and spoke to a charming young lady with no problem - she resolved my issue (damaged book) straight away. Sure you are dialling the correct number?

Anonymous said...

I have been buying from BD for more than 3 years abour 8-10 books a year. Twice books were lost in the post and I emailed them about three weeks later. They responded overnight and a new book was forwarded without any hussles. Try emailing rather than trying to get through the phone, they are very promt with their rsponse.

WillSpirit said...

Their website mangled my data, and the books were sent to an address that was obviously incomplete: just my name and the name of the large town where I live. No books ever arrived, and Book Depository refused to send another shipment until they received the package back in their warehouse. They told me to "contact us on a weekly basis to see if we have received the titles." (!!) I then asked for a refund, but of course they refused. No phone number on the website, no way to talk with a live person. All communications via Email and extremely unhelpful. I greatly regret having ordered through them.

WillSpirit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tricia said...

Hi just had a horrible service with BD --> unknown delivery time (2 months without getting any book), and customer service is not helpful.


c(*oo*)o said...

That's funny (not really). I just had the exact same experience; two montsh, no book. But they were really polite at the end of the e-mail, "Kind Regards" as they told me they sent the package with no street address and they won't re-ship it or give me a refund. Sounds like they don't even know how to program form validation into their website? Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

My partner and I ordered 2 books from The Book Depository the first week of December and did not receive them in time for the start of his next academic semester in the second week of January. Responses from BD customer service were excruciatingly slow, and they couldn't provide any information except a link to a Royal Mail website that explains that shipping could take longer during the holidays. After 5 weeks of waiting, we finally demanded a refund and paid the full price for the books at the University bookstore.

Book Depository Review said...

I have used Book Depository several times and, although their postage is slow, their prices always seem good. I have provided another review on my website. Thanks for sharing your review.

grace said...

I am incredibly upset. I ordered a medical book ("neurological differential diagnosis" by John Patten) and when it came, it was in disgusting condition. Dogeared HARDCOVER book, with spine damaged (how is this possible unless someone tried to wrestle with my book??) and fine scratches all over the back! It's impossible that the fine scratches were acquired during transit since the book was all wrapped up. Dear Book Depository, have you been trying to sell me a 2nd hand book? I'd have been better off buying a real 2nd hand book that would probably have come in a better condition. And cost a lot less.

Anonymous said...

What BS this company has ruined the world of books. They dont use any protection for the books so most arrive looking well used. They have destroyed many great booksellers with their BS business. I hope they fall like dead dogs. they are greedy scum full stop end of story they suck.

N A Padki said...

Customer Services telephone number : UK (44) 01452 307905.
This does not appear on their website.

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Flying Dutchman said...

Reading the comments it is difficult to figure out this BD company operating environment.
Some people seem to be delirious with praise of BD while others are pissed-off to great extend with the non-arrival of their ordered book(s). As the case is with myself. I placed several orders for several books first one did not arrive their excuse, "Wrong Credit Card address". Okay fine so they send replacement to same address and it did arrive, now how can that be if the address was wrong? Next five orders been resend couple times, but still one book has not arrived. This brings me to the point, "Where do all these books that do not arrive land up"?. With Toyota I know, I have the photos where all their unsold pickups land up. The State Dept. buys them at discounted fleet price and issues them to: well you know where.

Unknown said...

I have been a customer since before they were bought by Amazon. In the last year, I had to wait an average of 30 days before they claimed the books could not be found, yet the books continued to be listed in their catalog with a 3-5 shipping day. Well, they fail again. I just cancelled 2 orders today.

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