Pulling the Sword from the Stone: Amazon’s Kindle Books to be Available on Mobile Phones
Friday, 02/6/09 | 5 Comments

Did you feel that? That was a tremor in the publishing world. There have been many of them over the past several months, but yesterday’s announcement from Amazon could be especially game changing in my …

Read the full story »
Books and Writing

Interesting books, authors, and advice for writers including tips for writing a great book proposal, working with agents, publishing contracts and more.

Internet and Technology

Geek Alert! Here is where I write about technology trends and things I find just plain cool. These may or may not have much to do with publishing.

Marketing and Promotion

Advice, ideas, and tools for building a platform that can help you promote your personal brand, and your work.

Publishing and Business

Thoughts on the publishing industry, changes in content creation and delivery, and business and management topics.

Social Networks and Media

How the social web is changing business, and ways we can build relationships that can promote, support, and add value to our products.

Home » Publishing and Business

Low Prices, But at the Cost of Customer Service

Submitted by Chris on Tuesday, 06/10/082 Comments

Low prices indeed.

With the slumping economy many are shopping for the best bargains, including my family. Recently we visited a local retailer that offers “low prices, everyday” and picked up a few items at prices that were certainly lower than I had seen elsewhere.

But when I had to return one of the items the next day, I realized where I was really going to pay the price - customer service. Before I could enter the store with the item, I had to “check in” with the employee at the door. There were 4 people in a line ahead of me who also needed to check in returned merchandise. Each item had to be scanned, and then verified by the store employee. However, the employee had no idea how to run the scanner and spent most of the time staring blankly at the handheld screen. I waited in this line for 20 minutes.

Next was the line at the “Customer Service” desk with my newly verified merchandise (despite the fact that I had a receipt.) One employee, six customers in line, and not a smile to be found. I waited in this line for an additional 20 minutes.

Now to purchase the replacement item, and back into the line for checkout. Of course the employee in my line closed her register with 2 people still in front of me because it was time for her break.

So what does this have to do with publishing?

It seems that with all the discussion about the future of publishing, one item that seems to recur is the fact that books are too expensive. Simply switching to e-books eliminates that problem, or so many would have you believe.

Consider for a moment customer service. Not only does the publisher need to provide customer service to it’s customers - book stores, distributors, retailers - but we also need to support the ultimate consumer: readers.

Inside the front cover of Wiley trade publications you will find an 800 number. On the other end of that number you will find a dedicated customer service staff ready to answer a variety of questions and provide solutions to reader problems. You can also access customer service via support.wiley.com

Often these questions are solve on the spot, but sometimes they are routed to editorial staff, and we sometimes send them on up to the authors.

For our Wrox programming titles we also provide a support forum at p2p.wrox.com where readers can interact with a variety of technical experts and authors.

It’s not just paper and ink

Customer service is but one area where book publishers have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from other content providers. It is certainly not enough - we still need to be innovating (faster) - but it is certainly part of the cost equation.

Related Posts


  • Mark said:

    Hi Chris — I see publishers offering lots of value, but I wonder if — from a reader’s perspective — customer service is really their strength. Who is better at answering reader questions about a book — the author or customer service person at the warehouse? Can you provide some examples of how this works at Wiley — misspellings/misprints aside?

    As a reader I am trying imagine when I would ever need to phone a publisher. I can’t think of any scenarios. May be it is different with tech?


  • Chris (author) said:

    Hi Mark,

    My point was that customer service is just one consideration for the true cost of a book.

    But you raise a great point as well. You are right that tech is a bit different - we get programming and technical questions all the time. But, we also service many other categories including travel, business, pets, cooking and others.

    I think I will ask the head of our customer service department for some examples, and share those stories with you in another post.

    Thanks for being part of the conversation.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.