Barnes and Noble’s Epic Fictionwise and eReader Migration Failure

Barnes and Noble's Epic Fictionwise and eReader Migration Failure

I am insanely disappointed in Barnes and Noble. Earlier this week, news broke that they were shutting down the long-running and sites they purchased three years ago, and offering to transition as many books as eligible to matching NOOK accounts. So far, so good. Then, the day after it became big news, they sent out emails with instructions on the transition. Also good. Unfortunately, if you were to follow the instructions in these emails, you would likely see one of two outcomes: a failure to link your email to your eReader/Fictionwise account, or B&N would find your account but only transfer a small handful of eligible titles. Either way, this is a very painful and embarrassing failure for Barnes and Noble.

Both Judie and I have had the “we can’t find your email” error. Here’s the message we got when we clicked the link sent to our email addresses:

Sorry, your email address doesn’t match our records.

If you received a shut-down announcement email from or, it included an opt-in link to migrate your purchased titles from your Bookshelf to a NOOK Library. This opt-in link will only work for the Fictionwise or customer it was sent to.

If you did not receive a shut-down announcement email, please contact Fictionwise or support

to get your opt-in link.

Please note that your Bookshelf must have at least one purchased title to migrate to a NOOK Library.

My theory is that Barnes and Noble didn’t properly differentiate Fictionwise and eReader customers. Neither Judie nor I ever had a Fictionwise account, but each of us did have one at eReader. B&N’s links and landing page all refer to Fictionwise (in fact, the header says “Welcome, Fictionwise customer”.) Judie and I both had legacy eReader accounts, and we both had errors…and from purely anecdotal experience around the web, it seems like other eReader customers had the same error. Someone at B&N screwed up, and it’s alienating everyone whose eBook path took them through at some point.

Of course, even if you were a Fictionwise customer, it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Over at Mobileread, it looks like almost everyone who tried to download their Fictionwise titles had the vast majority of their titles go missing. Most seem to be reporting somewhere around 10 moving over, and the rest just…didn’t.

Barnes and Noble has a list of titles that can’t be moved, but people are reporting books not on that list are also not being transferred. Be sure to check the full list, as it is pretty substantial. Also, it is odd that some books can’t transfer while others can. As a random test, I searched “Rabbit Run” by John Updike; it’s listed as a non-transferrable book, but B&N carries it as a NOOK title, so what’s the problem?

When I first heard there were immovable titles I assumed these were books that were in limbo for some reason; rights holders who couldn’t be reached to agree to sell through B&N, books that had fallen somewhere between out of print and out of copyright, etc. However, it looks really awful that someone could have purchased a legitimate ebook from Fictionwise, only to be told that for some mysterious reason they have to repurchase it if they want it in NOOK form!

This whole thing is a huge mess. Barnes and Noble had three years to plan for the eventual orderly demise of eReader and Fictionwise. This didn’t sneak up on them, this isn’t a fire sale, and there’s no excuse for the horrible failure of their transfer process. This is an embarrassment to Barnes and Noble and Fictionwise, and this is a slap in the face to legions of early adopters of eBooks, who built libraries in these early stores and are now discovering a promised upgrade path is nothing but smoke and mirrors.


About the Author

Carly Z
Carly has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to her first PDA (a Palm M100). She quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. She loves writing about ebooks because they combine her two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?
  • Doug Miller

    I had the same message about not finding my email account. Of course, I have absolutely no idea what book or books I ever purchased; it was probably only a single title, just to check it out, and most books are one-time reads for me anyway, so I’m not as angry as I understand many other people are. Still, so far this is a clusterfudge. Let’s hope that by December 21 this is sorted out.

    • I don’t think I have many, if any, must re-reads on my ereader account. I doubt it, since I haven’t been on in years.
      But if I had hundreds of books? I’d be livid. And even with just a few, it’s the principle of it…why dangle the possibility that I haven’t lost anything in front of me and then totally bork the execution? If this had been successful, I would have had at least a few extra books in my NOOK account, and maybe it would encourage me to buy more books there. Now? No way.

  • As I mentioned to Carly yesterday, I had already basically written off my 500 eReader purchases; I had downloaded my books and had tried various DRM stripping and migrating schemes (yeah, I did), but hadn’t really been satisfied with any of them. I had basically chalked the books up as a lost cause.

    So I’ll admit that I let my hopes get raised a bit when B&N promised an upgrade path. I really want them to make good on this. =/

  • Sounds like Calibre and Apprentice Alf are going to be the heroes for tech-savvy readers. Unfortunately, for people who don’t want to go through the DMCA-violating steps of keeping their own purchases accessible, the requirement to get permission to keep what you already paid for is a bit nuts.

  • As I mentioned, back when eReader and Fictionwise combined I immediately had problems because I used different emails for each and when they paired up I couldn’t ever seem to get things to work perfectly – but I did at least get my couple of dozen purchases out and converted and still have them around. This is a total mess for BN and I hope they deal with it soon!

  • alslayer

    I had the same issue you guys had. My eReader account just won’t transfer. But over a year ago I used Calibre and managed to crack all my books. Too bad iTunes isn’t as good as calibre. I will miss eReader.

  • cgavula

    I got the same error message on my ereader account and I never got a notice for my fictionwise account. Nice, huh? In any case, this is a huge mess. I also find it disappointing that there aren’t any references on your bookshelf page also helping you through the process. It’s as is the process is “hidden” and they really don’t want you to do it – certainly not in the unacceptably short time frame they’ve given for completing the process.
    In any case, I’m glad I really haven’t invested anything into the B&N ecosystem – especially if this is an indication of how they handle things. Again – very disappointing.

  • Russel Taylor

    I only had a fictionwise account. I still got the “your email address doesn’t match our records” message. This morning, over a week later, I received an email saying that the previous link may have been bad, and here’s an updated one. Big surprise, I get the same message.

    • The same just happened to me, too. =P

    • This is going from bad to worse. Judie and I had the same result.

      Is anyone at Barnes and Noble even trying?

    • Doug Miller

      I received the same email today. I just tried it and, for the first time, no error message. I am supposed to get an email the week of November 19, 2012. Now I just need a time machine…

      • Nice. =P

      • Dammit I am making the same joke in the post I am writing right now about this mess.
        Great minds.

        • Doug Miller

          Edited. The joke is yours.

          • Ha, it’s ok…you can keep it!

            I made more of a back to the future type joke with it (was tempted to go more futurama, thats how I became my own grandpa type joke, but that didnt fit as well here)
            Sent from my iPad

  • Pingback: Barnes and Noble and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Fictionwise Shutdown | Gear Diary()