Tuesday, January 18, 2011

WOWIO ... Not So Wow!

We recently received a rant from fellow Australian comiker Matt Elder, who's had problems buying e-comics from the WOWIO website.

Just to put you in the picture, WOWIO promotes itself as:
... a unique eBook marketplace that stands apart from the crowd by offering significant advantages to readers, authors, publishers and advertisers.
Furthermore, they –

... know authors and artists work hard to create their books, and we believe they deserve fair compensation. That’s why on WOWIO, they get to set their own prices, and keep 100% of those prices (less the credit card processing fee). That’s right. Authors and publishers keep 100% of the revenues of all retail sales.

In theory, this sounds good unless, of course, customers can't get hold of a product because they live outside the US.

Matt wrote us the following about his experience of shopping online at WOWIO:

I went to WOWIO site a couple of weeks ago to buy some books and had a horrible experience.

Just some background info. I was trying to support a guy by the name of Kurt Belcher – I inked one of his stories for the Something Wicked Anthology 4/5 years ago. So I was just going to the various sites with some of his books. I went to:


and managed to download it no worries... and for 99cents, I'm more than happy to pay for it.

I then went to WOWIO to get his Winter War, as well as a couple of comic titles created by others:


I joined up, added books to the shopping cart, filled in credit card details and hit the "submit" button ... and then had that dreaded moment when you don't know if your credit card transaction has been processed or the browser has screwed up / crashed or what.

(Attached is the screenshot when I went to try to buy one of the books.)

So I tried a whole bunch of different browers, a Mac and a PC, and various Operating systems (in case there was some computer issue on my end) but all kept doing the same thing, just hanging.

I contacted Kurt saying I couldn't buy his books to support him. He came back pretty quickly saying he and his publisher had had problems with WOWIO and anyone outside of the US trying to download books would have problems. He gave me another alternative to get the books for free (but I still wanted to give him some $$$ – when someone does it for a hobby and only wants 99cents for the book, who can say no).

I also contacted WOWIO and informed them in great detail about the problem so they could fix it (obviously not many other people are going to spent 1.5 hours trying to buy a book / comic let alone give enough information to the e-retailer so they can troubleshoot the problem on their end. I mentioned I was in Australia and so was wondering if there was a content / isp filtering issue.

They took four days to get back to me with a short message:

"I had our technical team look into it - they are suggesting to try a different credit card here. We are not seeing any notices on our end. We hope this helps, Thanks"

The credit card I've used I've had for almost 10 years and been using it for internet transactions for all of that time. I've only ever had one problem with it on the internet – way back when and it turned out to be a computer glitch. It's a major credit card through a major bank so there is a 0.5% chance that was the problem.

So, not only can you not give money to WOWIO, when you explain the issue to them in great detail, they don't understand it (even their other customers have experienced the same problem) when they do decide to get back to you. I'm just really surprised because there are some Image comic books (Darkness, Witchblade etc) on the site so it isn't some small time operator.

For me, WOWIO is now a damaged brand and I would be extremely hesistant to use them again. Apart from an exercise in how not to make money, how not to handle customers, [it] might be worthwhile letting Australian comics creators know as they may not realise they are missing out on international sales.

I must add that I've purchased several other comic books online in PDF format from other retailers and actually enjoy the process and the work – paying like $1-2 a book and getting them instantly.

End of ramble.

From our POV, there doesn't appear to be anything majorly sinister going on with WOWIO except that their customer service may need some attention. However, Matt's experience does highlight a need to be vigilant about where you place your e-books and e-comics. Comics creators work tremendously hard to bring out their titles, and if customers are not able to buy them because of flawed technology, then those lines of passive income begins to dry up for the creator.

Our advice ... before becoming a publisher on WOWIO or other similar sites, become a customer first. If you find it problematic to buy and download a e-comic or two from the site (and you might want to try different browsers and computers in the process) then think seriously about whether the site can be properly trusted to service your digital backlist.

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