By: J. Stapley - November 14, 2007

I am typically an man. I have the free two-day shipping and I love their used and new options. This year, however, we received a couple of gift certificates to Barnes & Noble. I recently decided to use them.

The Purchase
Unless you want to join the Barnes & Noble club you have to pay pretty close to the cover price. On the two books I wanted, Amazon would have saved me over $10. I went to pay, but you can only use one gift certificate on line at a time. I had to save my cart and then call Barnes & Noble to finish my order over the phone. Verdict: lame.

The Reception
I received a box with two books and a few air packing pouches. The box did not appear damaged; the books however were in horrible shape. The dust jacked from the Kofford volume was sliced (perhaps by a box cutter) and quite damaged. The edges of the jacket were also quite scuffed and creased. The USU Press volume had a large ink smudge on the dust jacket, which was also quite beaten up. I’m not in the habit of paying a premium for damaged books.

The Reaction
The instructions for returns in the box indicated that I would have to pay for the books’ return shipment. Um, no thank you. So I called. Unfortunately, “return horribly damaged books” was not on the automated menu. I hit # a couple times in hopes that I could speak to someone. It worked. Even though there was no hint that Barnes and Noble would be helpful, they actually were. The assistant had two new books shipped to my house and she said she would send a return label for the damaged goods. Not bad.

Follow up
I received the books in order. They weren’t what I would described as pristine. For example, the dust Jacket to the Kofford volume was notched, but I was too fed up to complain further. The envelope with the return postage came with a letter of instructions, but no actual postage. I called again (utilizing the repeated # technique) and had them send me out the postage again. This time, it actually did arrive.

I know I should support independent Mormon booksellers. Amazon is just so dang useful…and cheep…and I don’t live anywhere near the independents. I still order from them on occasion. Unless I get more gift cards, however, and in spite of their nice phone-workers, Barnes & Noble will definitely not get my return business.


  1. Reviews like this are helpful, J. I buy most of my Mormon books from Curt Bench at conferences, but otherwise it’s I too have a b&n gift certificate that I have put off using — your review is timely.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — 11/14/2007 @ 4:41 pm

  2. Ardis, you are definitely right about Buying from Benchmark at Mormon Conferences. That is the best, because the discounts are great and there is no shipping. The hard part: controlling myself.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 11/14/2007 @ 4:47 pm

  3. J.: Couldn’t agree more. B&N may be a nice store to visit, but ordering books from their website is rarely worthwhile.

    The beat up Kofford book may not be all B&N’s fault. Great content, but they’re built poorly. I heard that Greg Kofford binds all of his books by hand. I can tell.

    Comment by David Grua — 11/14/2007 @ 5:01 pm

  4. Thanks for the review. As I hate physical shopping, Amazon is my mega-department store wonderland. I suppose it’s pathetic I even buy some clothes from them.

    I wonder how B&N can hope to compete if they have to charge near-cover prices.

    You do make me feel guilty for not frequentling the local LDS bookstore here by the DC temple. But they mark up everything, including Church Distribution stuff, so bad it leaves me with a bad taste.

    Comment by David H. Sundwall — 11/14/2007 @ 5:06 pm

  5. David G., yeah, the bindings on the last two books I have looked at (Ostler’s second volume and McBride’s Nauvoo Temple volume) were quite poor. Crooked pages, type defects, etc. I like what Kofford is trying to do, but really. The Typesetting on Ostler’s books is also awful.

    I’m with you though, DHS, I try to do all my shopping online. Amazon just started home grocery delivery in Seattle…very, very tempting.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 11/14/2007 @ 5:13 pm

  6. I live less than a mile from a B&N store, but I may consider buying through in the future, rather than Amazon. I placed an advance order with Amazon in early October, for a book that I knew would be released on November 2nd, because Amazon had a great price (about $20 less than regular retail). As expected, the book was released by the publisher on time. I started getting requests from Amazon to approve a delay. I finally wrote to my friend at the publishing company, and learned that the books were shipped by the publisher to Amazon on November 5th—no problem, considering the discount. Then this week, I received the real insult. Even though I know for a fact that the books were sent to Amazon on November 5th, Amazon wrote me again to say that “the release date for this book has changed,” and that they could not ship to me until January 16th of 2008!

    Needless to say, I cancelled the order. I can’t help but think that’s what Amazon really wanted me to do, since the book was a limited edition, and likely had what’s known as a “short discount” from the publisher. I don’t think Amazon wanted to honor the price.

    Comment by Nick Literski — 11/14/2007 @ 5:23 pm

  7. I think we are waiting for the same book Nick. I might be inclined to agree with your reasoning, accept that it has been my experience with other small publishers that release dates at Amazon are sometimes delayed for several weeks, even though I know that Amazon has received the books. I have no idea why that is.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 11/14/2007 @ 5:28 pm

  8. Well that makes three of us waiting for the latest from Signature. After I got my notice from Amazon this morning, I called Benchmark and ordered my signed copy. I’m going to keep my Amazon order for now, though. I’ll be curious whether they ever pony up and ship at the discounted price. (I suspect Nick is right here.) If they ever do ship it, I suspect I’ll be able to resell it and make a little money. Should be a great book.

    Comment by Randy B. — 11/14/2007 @ 5:39 pm

  9. As for B&N, I generally agree that Amazon has better service and that the books usually arrive in better condition.

    However, I’ve gotten some very good deals from B&N over the past year, particularly on those books that are a bit pricey and not usually discounted. For example, I’ve ordered several of the Signature Limited Diaries through B&N. These don’t ordinarily go on sale elsewhere and they cost up to $125. As a B&N member, they take 20% off the top; in addition to that, they always have a coupon code out, usually an extra 15% off but sometimes 20% or even 25%. With all that, you can find some pretty good deals. I got the Nuttall diaries for something like $45 off the retail price. (It also arrived in fine condition.)

    Even so, I don’t know that I’ll renew my membership this year. I think I’ve already found most of the good deals out there (at least that interest me).

    Comment by Randy B. — 11/14/2007 @ 5:56 pm

  10. Okay, fellas, ‘fess up — what book are you all waiting for? Maybe it should be obvious, but I generally wait for things to show up on the LDS Library shelves and don’t keep track of what’s in the pipeline unless it’s by a friend. I buy relatively few — I’m probably the only one around here who wants to live in a home and not a library. (Dodging numerous thrown objects…)

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — 11/14/2007 @ 6:42 pm

  11. Ok, Ms. Downsize and leave my books on the street corner (grin). It is a certain controversial book that collects early Mormon blessings.

    Well, I have contacted amazon for a comment. We shall see…

    Comment by J. Stapley — 11/14/2007 @ 6:46 pm

  12. I’ve used B&N in the past because they have had some good deals at times. However I prefer Amazon because their website is better and also because I got an Amazon VISA card which gives me part of my money back as book coupons. So I just use that as my primary card and I get “free books” I don’t have to justify to my wife. (Well, in the last case, a copy of Halo 3)

    BTW – Nick, when does your book come out?

    Comment by Clark — 11/14/2007 @ 8:47 pm

  13. I’ve not been able to do much on the book lately, Clark, but I’m in the process of making some changes which should free up more of my time. I’m planning to dive in with vigor right after the new year, and finally get the thing finished. I’ll also have the support and encouragement (read: loving, persistent goading!) of my partner, which will go a long way. It’s really time to get this project off my plate, and move onward.

    Comment by Nick Literski — 11/15/2007 @ 12:47 am

  14. Well, latest word from Amazon this morning is that the book has now shipped. Perhaps they had enough people like Nick cancel their orders???

    And Ardis, I would absolutely _love_ to live in a library (assuming there’s a room with ESPN running somewhere).

    Comment by Randy B. — 11/15/2007 @ 9:21 am

  15. Barnes and Noble has a website?

    Comment by Susan M — 11/16/2007 @ 11:31 am

  16. Not speaking about LDS-related books, which I rarely buy, but I’m not sure you can judge based on one (1) interaction. I’ve had good and bad experiences with both firms.

    I return things ordered online to the local B&N store, which for me is MUCH easier than return mail.

    They are also great about responding to email with helpful suggestions, like the ISBN for Harry Potter in German.

    I’ve had good luck with ordering used materials through their network of used sellers (not sure whether used dealers offer products through both Amazon and BN?)

    Finally, they have some products which they publish themselves, such as a wonderful map of Manhattan. I was so sad when I lost mine, as I couldn’t find one near as good.

    Comment by Naismith — 11/18/2007 @ 8:09 pm

  17. Well, latest word from Amazon this morning is that the book has now shipped. Perhaps they had enough people like Nick cancel their orders???

    Evidently not enough people. I received an email yesterday from amazon informing me that the book will be shipped Jan. 26-28. Jerks.

    Comment by Justin — 11/20/2007 @ 10:38 am

  18. Hang in there Justin. I got just such an email. After I approved the delay, Amazon sent the book the next day; it arrived a couple days after that.

    Comment by Randy B. — 11/20/2007 @ 11:59 am

  19. Try Hastings Entertainment for books. They see both used and new books, video games and music.

    Comment by Jennifer — 6/8/2009 @ 10:18 am

Return to top.