Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

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I’ve always liked is Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like the show so much that in 1991 when Pocket Books brought out the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, I had to have it.  I bought it and thumbed through it so often that I eventually wore it out. I recently ordered a replacement copy from Amazon. However, what I got was different than what I expected; it wasn’t the original book or even a proper reprint. Evidently, Amazon reprints older books themselves, and it’s not the quality you might be led to expect.

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

The original book I had purchased in 1991 was printed in two colors with most of the diagrams being in blue, while the rest was in black and white like books usually are. The print back then was readable, including all the LCARS (the interface that all consoles on the Enterprise D used) display examples. They were so readable in the original book that you could even read some of the easter eggs that were not viewable on the show.

As you may have gathered, I am very familiar with how the original book looked, and I was looking forward to flipping through it again. When I received the replacement book that I ordered from Amazon, the first thing I noticed was that it was sent USPS and had been crammed into my apartment’s mailbox; it had to have been folded. When I opened my package, I soon realized that it wasn’t an actual copy of the original 1991 print.

The first tip-off that I found was when I opened the book  — it was all in black and white, with no other color. I thought that was odd. The paper also felt lighter than the original, and the print quality was nowhere near where the original had been. So I flipped to the back, looked at the back cover, and saw the information below.

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

Made in the USA … that’s good. Middletown, DE … okay, that seemed strange. But what was stranger was that it had the exact date I had ordered this book on Amazon printed on it. I went back to the listing; the listing said 1991. Carly and I had a quick chat on Slack, and she said that Amazon had a facility in Middletown. It then it dawned on me: Amazon printed this book, not Pocket Books.

At that point, I wanted to leave a review on the book, but then I saw this:

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

Why was I being banned from reviewing the book? I flipped through the reviews, and it appeared I wasn’t the only one to notice the Amazon version’s problems.

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

I looked at the listing itself again … and did not see it noted anywhere in the listing that it was a reprint. So I contacted Amazon support, and they did refund the purchase price of the book since it was totally not what I expected (nor was it what was described. I was pretty disappointed with this experience; what’s worse is Amazon still hasn’t corrected the listing to show it as a reprint, and I still can’t post a review.

If Amazon said upfront that this was a book printed by them, I would have been better informed about what I would be receiving. However, they didn’t and still haven’t. I write this as a precaution to those who love the show like I do and have (or had) a copy of this book when it was originally made. The LCARS diagrams in this reprint look awful, and it’s basically not what anyone who owned the original would expect in a replacement.

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without DisclosureBuyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

I thought about using the refund to see if the Kindle version was of better quality. I figured the Kindle version might have had the colors since you can read them on an iPad or other color LCDs, but I was able to tell by the Kindle edition preview that it was also only in black and white, and in my opinion, it also was a poor scan.

Buyer Beware: Amazon Reprints Some Books Poorly and Without Disclosure

I’d be more forgiving if this had been a reprint of a novel that didn’t have art in it, but this is a book that can be somewhat collectible. However, I didn’t purchase it because I’m a collector of TNG memorabilia as much as I did for the show’s nostalgia.

I just want the readers of Gear Diary to know you can’t trust everything Amazon does. If you want to buy a book that you see on Amazon, be sure to check out the reviews. If I had read the reviews, I would have known not to bother with this particular book. Fortunately, Amazon saw the issue when I raised it and refunded the purchase. That kind of service is why I will continue to use Amazon, but I will know to be a bit more cautious with items like this going forward.

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.