Thursday, January 05, 2006

Perils of Buying Online

On January 2, 2006 I was looking for Michael E. Porter's book "The Competitive Advantage of Nations" on

Amazon described the product as:

Hardcover: 896 pages
Publisher: Free Press (June 1, 1998)
ISBN: 0684841479

Among "Other Editions" was indicated a Digital Download in pdf format for $ 6.00.

I need the book for my own dissertation and thought it would be nice to obtain a digital copy because one can search for information, bookmark for later reference, and quote the original text accurately.

The whole process of ordering and downloading the book was a breeze. But to my horror what I received instead was a 1990 article from the Harvard Business Review—bearing the same title and from the same author.

Understandably, Amazon has a "no return" policy on downloads of pdf files. Nevertheless, I've written to the folks at for a refund because what they provided isn’t what they offered.

As I wait for their response, two questions pop into my mind:

  1. Should I actually ask for a pdf of the book that I want rather than a refund? After all, they accepted the order and charged my credit card, which makes it a contract.

  2. What if I had actually ordered the paper and got the book instead?

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