Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Defective Books

I have gradually augmented my old beautifully illustrated set of Dickens with Penguins with notes. A few days ago I began reading a 2009 Penguin edition of Little Dorritt, which purports to have "notes by Stephen Wall and Helen Small."

“Notes” is right. The title page doesn’t say “edited by.” It says, “Notes by.” I have already ascertained that the appendices referred to in the notes are missing. I calmed down about it and was losing myself in the book again, when Note 24 of Book I, Chapter 13, referred me to the introduction. Now I'm upset. There IS no introduction!

I assumed it was a defective book. But I checked Amazon reader reviews: others complain of the same problem. The theory seems to be that Penguin reprinted an older edition - without the intro and appendices, as an economic measure.

This doesn't seem possible - Penguins are the most reliable of editions - so I'm hoping it's just a "bad batch" of books.

Editors Stephen Wall and Helen Small must be having a fit.

So did Penguin do this intentionallly, as the Amazon readers suggest, or was it an oversight?

Here’s the (harsh) customer service policy at I found at Penguin on “defective books.”

“We will replace defective books purchased new through our websites, or directly from us by phone, within 30 days of purchase. E-mail us at, stating the WEB order number included in the SmartReceipt order acknowledgment e-mailed to you, the title and ISBN, and the defect. We will then send a replacement copy.

“If you purchased the book elsewhere, return the book to the place of purchase; the reseller will refund or exchange in accordance with store policy and will eventually be reimbursed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. when the book is returned to us.

“We do not send out replacement pages for defective books that are missing pages, nor can these be e-mailed in electronic format.” 

In the past when I’ve had such problems, publishers have replaced the book. One small publisher in England told me not to return the book: they simply sent me a new one.

Penguins are my favorite, but I'll have to buy an older Penguin classic to replace this if I can't persuade Penguin to help me out. Here's a $12 book that, alas, will go to charity, because it doesn't have what I bought it for.

Don't buy the edition with the Masterpiece Theater photo of Little Dorritt (above): it's the one with missing parts!

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