Publishers Without Protection

When you’ve been on the internet since 1994, you learn a few things. One of those things is how to protect yourself. Protecting yourself can mean many things on the internet but mostly, I mean protect your personal information. There are bits of personal info I don’t care so much about. There are bits I get freaked out over. Access to my money and identity theft are two big items that freak me out.

Last week I bought some books. When I can, I buy using PayPal in order to keep from using my credit card on the internet.  It’s a piece of information I try not to type into a website if I don’t have to. Of course, I use a special credit card solely for online purchases and it’s not attached to a bank account (although it appears that it is) so it doesn’t have access to ALL my money as a debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo would. Still, I’d rather use PayPal.

At any rate, here’s what happened when I bought some books. The first situation is that a publisher’s website took me to PayPal. I paid for the books and I was taken back to the publisher’s site… but not to where I could download the books. Instead, I was directed back to the order page. It said to click here to complete the transaction. So I clicked. I got a page that asked for my credit card info.

I thought that was kinda weird since I’d just been at PayPal. But you know how it is when you do stuff you’ve done a thousand times before. I’d spaced sorta and I didn’t exactly remember if I’d had to click the button in PayPal that actually pays the seller. (You have to click so much stuff so many times, who remembers which button 5 minutes after you do it?) So I thought maybe their PayPal stuff didn’t work. That’s happened to me before. I checked my email. No notice from PayPal that I’d paid them.

Admittedly, my next move was stupid, but it was late and I was frustrated. I wanted the book so I could read in bed. I put my card info in and bought the books. Pretty much as soon as I’d downloaded those books, two receipts showed up in my email. One from PayPal and one from the publisher’s website. I wasn’t exactly happy, but I wasn’t all that miffed either. Websites that don’t work right are a fact of life. It’s annoying but you learn not to waste a lot of emotion on it.

I emailed the customer service address on the publisher’s site, sent them the receipts, and received an email back the same day stating that I would be credited and apologizing for the error. The money was returned and all was well.

It dawned on me then that I’d bought quite a few books in the last month. I’d had a number of false starts with websites that lagged or didn’t work right when trying to purchase. And I’d noticed that a couple of publishers had some really BAD FOR YOU websites.  I’m not going to name names with the publishers but I am going to tell you a couple of things YOU need to watch out for in order to protect yourself. And for the record, I’m not talking about bookstores like ARe. As far as I remember with the bookstores, none of them suffer from the issues I’m about to relate.

First of all, is the website that takes you to PayPal but doesn’t give you your books and instead takes you back to a page where you have to pay. Don’t be a lazy ass like me and end up paying twice. Wait for your PayPal receipts at least a half hour. If it doesn’t show up, THEN go buy the books again. If you end up paying twice, let the customer service people for that publisher know that they have an issue with their website and shopping cart. Hopefully, if they start seeing a trend or start receiving complaints, they will fix the issue.  Unfortunately, in this instance, just like the next one I’m going to relate, what generally happens is that people get disgusted and walk away because it’s taken so long to get a book. Losing sales is a BAD thing too!

Next, is the website that lags. It lags HARD when you search for books. It lags hard when you purchase books. Sometimes you put all your info in and their site just sits there… lagging… with your card info on display while you wait for their servers to get their shit together and take your card and give you download links for your books.

The lagging website loses sales on a regular basis. How do I know this? Because I hate the lagging websites and I often end up not buying from that publisher until their books are on ARe. And I know if I get frustrated and don’t buy…there are a lot of other people who are doing the same thing as me. This particular publisher is pretty high up in the ranks of eBook publishers and I personally think it’s just stupid of them to not have a hosting company that can handle their traffic better. I don’t like hanging buy screens with my card info just sitting there. I bet you don’t like it either.

The last thing I want to talk about with regard to buying eBooks is the MOST IMPORTANT thing! I capped that because I not only want to capture your attention, I want to emphasize this. First, I have to say that the publishers I’m with don’t have this issue. THANK GOD. I would be emailing their staff and nagging them if that were the case. I would feel horrible if someone tried to buy my book and had their credit card or their identity compromised because of it. Second, even if you email me, I’m not going to tell you where I saw this. I just want you to be extra vigilant when you buy.

Here’s the worst thing EVER when purchasing an eBook:

A webpage that asks for your credit card info and your billing address… and there is NO PADLOCK on the lower right corner of your browser or where there’s a broken or open padlock.

Do you even know what that means to you? It mean SOMEONE CAN STEAL YOUR INFO!

Yep. There are e-pubs (and a whole lot of other stores) out there on the internet selling you stuff without protecting your information. To me, this is unconscionable. I have an e-commerce site I oversee at my day job. I have regular PCI scans by Trustwave to ensure that our customers’ data is always safe. The CLOSED PADLOCK shows up in any browser I choose to use on my company’s e-commerce site. We take PCI compliance very seriously. Visa and Mastercard require that you keep a customer’s card data secure at all times. If a breach can be traced back to your lack of security as a merchant, you can lose your ability to receive Visa and Mastercard payments. That is a really big thing.

There are a lot of new pubs springing up. When I see them, I wonder if they know what they are doing. Do they know how to use shopping carts? Do they know how to protect a customer’s data? Do they even know that they HAVE to? When I saw a couple of sites without closed padlocks in the lower right of the browser, I realized that there are indeed publishers who will sell you a book while giving the World Wide Web access to your information by not having a secure website. I wonder how long it will be before they are caught in a net of litigation because someone’s money was stolen through their insecure website.

So when you are buying eBooks with your credit card on the internet, LOOK FOR THE CLOSED PADLOCK on the lower right corner of your browser. Also, check the location bar of your browser. If the URL starts with HTTP, the page is not encrypted. If it starts with HTTPS, the page IS encrypted and safe for you to enter your information.

If you find a publisher that sells books on an unsecure site (the page where you enter your card info has no padlock or an open padlock on the lower right of the browser and/or the location bar at the top of your browser shows a URL of http with no S) please STOP. Don’t put your card info on that page. Email the publisher and let them know you won’t buy from them until they fix their site. Protect yourself because apparently, some publishers won’t protect you.