Lately I have been having great success using Google book search to find genealogy references and sources that I would never have come across in my lonely little corner of the world. If you haven't used it yet, this is a truly wonderful tool for genealogists, as you can type in the name of your ancestor or any other phrase that you select, and Google will search across all available volumes, showing you snippets of books, or even scanned whole copies of books if it's in the public domain, or providing you with links to booksellers who have copies of the books for sale.
And this is what today's blog is about, really--booksellers--not Google book search.
In the past month (July 2009) I have had , in my opinion, highly unsatisfactory experiences with independent booksellers who sell on Amazon and Alibris. Not once--but TWICE in the last month.
It works like this: some unsuspecting customer (me in this case) orders a scarce, out-of-print, but highly desirable genealogy book from an independent bookseller listing on Amazon.com or Alibris.com. All goes well, and the order seems to go through. Then low and behold, days or even weeks later, the book is either lost in shipping, they send you the wrong item by "mistake", and/or they inform you that they no longer have the book you ordered in stock. A refund is issued. And all that would be perfectly acceptable--except for the fact that the same independent bookseller immediately turns around and re-lists the scarce, highly desirable, out-of-print genealogy book-- the very same item you ordered-- at a much higher price!!
So here is my WALL OF SHAME, the booksellers I have recently encountered who appear to have indulged in this tacky & dubious practice, and whom, in my humble opinion, you should AVOID at all costs:
-- It is my opinion that buyers should avoid THRIFTBOOKS of Auburn, WA aka ATLANTIC BOOK COMPANY aka MOTOR CITY BOOKS aka GREEN EARTH BOOKS, selling on Alibris.com. I ordered a $35.00 hardback book (Colony of North Carolina Abstracts of Land Patents 1735-1764 by Margaret Hofmann) from Thriftbooks, and after a long wait, they sent me a crappy old yellowed paperback fiction book worth about fifty cents at your local yard sale. When I notified Thriftbooks of the error, they apologized, told me to keep the paperback (!), and gave me a refund (or at least they said they did, I haven't received my credit card statement yet), indicating that they no longer had the book I had ordered in stock. So I reordered the same book at same price from Atlantic Book Company (which I didn't realize at the time was actually the same vendor as Thriftbooks), and they cancelled and refunded my order right away with no explanation at all. Just days later, the same book I had ordered for $35.00 was subsequently listed for sale on Alibris from Motor City Books (exact same vendor as Thriftbooks & Atlantic Book Company) at $55.00, and it's still listed as available from that vendor at that price on Alibris as of today Aug 2--even though I was informed that the book was no longer in stock. One has to wonder if this is really a legitimate business --or some kind of scam. Thriftbooks does have its own website--not that that means anything. I have already complained to Alibris, and for sure I'll be watching my credit card statements very very carefully in the coming weeks.
--It is my opinion that buyers should avoid edies_editions (ships from Louisiana), selling on Amazon.com. In mid July, I ordered a scarce, out-of-print volume of records from South Carolina by Brent Holcomb, which I discovered on Google books, and which has information on several different families that I have been researching without much success for many years. I was absolutely THRILLED to find this book!! However, it was VERY expensive ($170.00), and I really had to think twice about ordering it. Now I wish I hadn't. As of today Aug 2, nearly three weeks later, I have not received the book, and this morning I contacted the vendor to get some answers, BECAUSE...(drum roll)...... I noticed that edies_editions as of today Aug 2, has the very same book I ordered listed on Amazon.com for $226.00, a fifty + dollar increase in price over my purchase price in mid-July. One might conjecture that edies_editions had multiple copies of this book to sell, but because the book in question is so scarce & out-of-print, this seems HIGHLY UNLIKELY. I am waiting for edies_edition to contact me to explain why I have not yet received my order.
(UPDATE Aug 3rd: edies_editions contacted me and they maintain that the book was sent mid July when I placed my order. Seller indicated that they had two copies to sell, and both sold, although at the time of my purchase, I saw only one was available from this seller. I can't prove otherwise, one way or another, but the second more expensive Amazon listing did disappear right after I contacted seller indicating that I had noticed the price increase. Seller told me it sometimes take up to 30 days for buyers to receive their items after purchasing (!), which is just plain ridiculous--I occasionally sell on Ebay and have never had items sent by me via media mail take that long, even items sent from my West Coast home to the East Coast. Also I have never had items lost in the mail when sent by me, although I have had items lost in the mail that I have purchased. Seller indicated that I should contact them if I don't receive the book within the next week. A quick look at the Amazon feedback shows this seller's items are chronically late in arriving, and a couple people had their items "lost in the mail". We shall see how this plays out. I am not at all convinced that I will ever receive the book I ordered.)
On the flip side of the coin, so to speak...here is a list of reputable booksellers that I have ordered genealogy books from in the past with excellent results:
ELDERS BOOKS Nashville TN (I was finally able to get the Margaret Hofmann book through them, and they sent it right away)
POWELLS BOOKS Portland OR
AMAZON.COM (when purchased from their in-stock books, NOT from the independent vendors who sell on their website)
MOUNTAIN PRESS Signal Mountain, TN
I'm sure there are other reliable genealogy booksellers, and I would appreciate comments, especially if anyone else out there has had a similar problem with the booksellers mentioned on my Wall of Shame.
P.S. If you already have a subscription to Ancestry.com, it pays to search their card catalog before ordering & purchasing any genealogy book. Ancestry.com can be labyrinthine and seems designed to make the easy impossible (my love-hate relationship with Ancestry.com--now that's definitely a subject for another blog entry on another day), but their card catalog search is helpful, and they may already have scanned copies available of the book or reference that you are seeking.