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Creating Pissed Off Users

The second edition of Head First Java is finally out, and now shipping on Amazon (and apparently in stores, but I haven't seen it yet). But Amazon is spectacularly screwed up right now, most noticeably in how it handles new editions of a book.
So the big problem is--everyone is buying the old edition on Amazon, when they should be buying the new one! The trouble is, it's nearly impossible to find the newest edition on Amazon. It used to be that when you went to a book's catalog page, and there was a newer edition of that book, you'd see that. There would be a link to all editions.
Not right now, though. If you go to our first edition, there's NO way to know that it's the older edition. Then it gets worse. Imagine you do a search in Amazon on, say, "Head First Java". The exact title. The new one still doesn't appear! Although you'll get our old book, other books we did, and then a nice selection of other books that somewhere mention the words "head", "first", and "java" somewhere in their text. Which means that you're actually more likely to find a book about having oral sex in a coffee shop than you are of actually finding a book that's named "Head First Java."
But wait... there's more! Let's say you find the old edition (the one that comes up on searches, etc.) but you already know there's a newer one. So you do what I'd do... click on the author's name to see the list of other titles by that author. But no, you'd be wrong there too.
Apparently all the publishers are mad as hell at Amazon, and we keep hearing, "They're working on it." One author put it bluntly, "Amazon is lying to their customers, by not telling people they're buying the older version of the books."
This is of course not a recipe for passionate users. I reckon a lot of people will get the old book only to realize at some point that there was a new one already shipping at the time they bought the old one!
So... be careful please, and if any of you have accidentally purchased the wrong Head First Java book on Amazon, we are so very sorry. Send it back to Amazon and demand they give you the new one. Trust me on this--you don't need both versions ; )
And for those of you not wanting to get burned by this on any book you purchase, right now it looks like the best thing to do is a normal search on the book you want, by title, and THEN do a sort by "publicatioin date". So far, that seems to be the best (and often only) way to bring up the newest editions. But Amazon has a history of changing their algorithms on a daily basis, so who knows what'll show up tomorrow. But this "don't show new editions correctly" thing has been going on for many weeks, and it's likely causing quite a lot of headaches for Amazon's customers.

Posted by Kathy on March 2, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Mar 3, 2005 6:41:17 PM


Hey Kathy, what a PITA for you too! Guess it was dumb luck that I picked up the second edition tonight at Barnes & Noble (Brookline MA). There you go, a genuine bricks & mortar sighting & sale! I could've saved a few clams by coming home and buying online, but then I wouldn't be sitting here writing you after telling my wife how excited I was, staying up late to feed my code jones. Believe it or not, she's even happy for me. Well, it's >0100 EST and I have pencils to sharpen, so TTYL but til then, a big fat THANKS and Illegitimi Non Carborundum. -jj-

Posted by: John Jurewicz | Mar 2, 2005 11:19:10 PM

I nearly be the one who get the old version from amazon.com too, it must be really bad if i need to send the book back to Amazon from where im settle now( everything in Thaialnd r cheap, but the international shipping cost is always high as the international's rate)
So i was really thankful to myself (who else?:P) that decided to get "Head first Servlets&JSP" before made an order to get "Head First Java". and I really need to thanks to the book itself that brought me to many greatest websites & and came to know about the second edition of Head First Java.
Then i went back to Amazon, but couldnot find the second edition anywhere and nearly placed order to the old edition by thinking that it might be new one when i get...(feeling abit stupid with myself)
But lastly i could get what i definitely want by searching from the keyword

"Head First Java 2nd"

, it made my head stunn abit and wonder about amazon's search engine..
By the way, i will get the book by the end of this month (so longgg as a year waiting :S) Eventhough i known that ur books are worth to wait, but still i really need it immediately.
Anyway, shall i ask u about the EJB second edition? will it be releast soonly, or the same as u mentioned in Design Patterns Book (10 years ahead)?? :D
i just asked about it here cause i wanna go for it after finish Head First Java, if it is not gonna release in this year, i will buy the first edition right away. Your books really made my brain remember things :D

Thanks & Regards

Posted by: Chonticha N. | Mar 3, 2005 3:27:01 AM

Interesting, I saw your HF Java 2nd Edition two weeks ago at Borders Bookstore here in Indiana.

Anyways, I love your books!

Posted by: Diong | Mar 3, 2005 7:07:37 AM

Just saw it at Softpro Books, Denver Tech Center. Prominently placed. Promptly purchased. Presently pleasurably perusing. (Okay, I'm done...)

Posted by: David Rupp | Mar 3, 2005 9:34:14 AM

It gets even worse when authors change the name of books between editions, e.g. "Constantine on Peopleware" became "The Peopleware Papers". And it's only in the introduction to the latter that you find out you bought (almost) the same book twice.

Posted by: Joe Grossberg | Mar 3, 2005 9:35:20 AM

Another way to find the right edition, if the book is already in local libraries, is to check your on-line catalog and copy the ISBN (number) of the book. Amazon lets you search on ISBN through the "advance search" feature.

On the other hand, libraries usually don't get stuff as quickly as Amazon (for obvious reasons!) and anyway...who wants to go to all that extra work??!!?? It's Amazon's job to make sure the books are easily accessible!

Posted by: Cyndi L | Mar 3, 2005 12:05:45 PM

Wow -- thanks David and Diong for telling me you saw the book. I finally saw it tonight for the first time, at Borders in Boulder. So if we could just get Amazon on the right track...
And Cyndi, you absolutely have the best advice. It's the one thing guaranteed (well, virtually) to work correctly in Amazon!
Cheers everyone.

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Mar 3, 2005 10:47:52 PM

Ah, the Amazon Edition Bug. I think this has been around for months, not weeks, and it is indeed very frustrating.

The way I get around it is to type the title in the Amazon search box, and look for the right book in the first screen of search results. Odds are that it will be an old edition of the 'right book'. But once I find *any* edition of that book I can click the "See all (#)" thing below the customer rating. It's on a line in the Amazon search results called "Other Editions."

For example, I am often looking for VB books. If I go hunting for the Wrox book Beginning VB, I'll get 46 results from various publishers. But the top result in the 'by relevance' section looks like the right one, so I click "See all (6)". Well, there aren't six editions of that book, but when 'all 6' pop up I see that they've mixed in the pdf version of one or more previous editions. Thankfully, all of the paper editions have a pub date on this search page, and I see that book #4 (Beginning VB.NET 2003) is the most recently published edition.

So, in just ninety-seven tortuous steps I've found the book I want. Thanks, Amazon!

Of course I work at a publishing house and spend time on Amazon every day. I'm sure others in publishing have their own workarounds. But the odds of Joe Consumer banging on Amazon's search engine long enough to figure this out on their own are very long indeed.

Posted by: David Mayhew | Mar 4, 2005 8:18:32 PM

So what do we pissed off users who got the OLD edition do when we go to the web site for the ready bake code and stuff?

Is that material archived somewhere where we can get at it?

Help appreciated.

Posted by: Bob LaRochelle | Mar 15, 2005 7:51:36 PM

I'd like to second Bob's comment/question: where do we go to obtain ready baked code for the old edition of Head First Java?

I recently bought the old edition of Head First Java from amazon thinking that it was going to be the new edition, but I can't be bothered going through the ordeal of sending it back, waiting for the new one, etc ... particularly as I've been scribbling my exercise answers and notes throughout.

PS. love the book! I've made several attempts to get on top of java, and made a new years resolution that this was the year that I was going to crack it. Thanks to HFJ, it looks like I'm well on my way!

Posted by: Graham Jenkin | Mar 20, 2005 3:51:23 PM

I'd like to 3rd Bob's comment/question (or should it be 2nd Graham's?).

I didn't get swindled by Amazon, just bought the first edition probably days before the 2nd edition was released...

It's a great book - thanks!

Posted by: Mike | Mar 22, 2005 5:12:36 PM

The ready bake code for the first edition Head First Jave can be found on the Oreilly site at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/hfjava/

Click the Examples link to download codeKitchens.zip

I don't understand why this was not made available on the headfirstjava.com site.

Posted by: John Croucher | Apr 8, 2005 11:29:30 PM

Howdy -- thanks John! I don't know why it wasn't up there either, except that I forgot to update that page. I just posted the *new* code for the *second* edition, at:


If you're using the first edition of the book, but with Java 5.0 (Tiger/Java 1.5), you'll need the second edition version of the code jar.


Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Apr 9, 2005 4:38:45 PM

I think I've identified a customer service antipattern - it's called "Keep the customer in the dark" - basically, whether out of fear that the customer will go elsewhere, or thinking that you can somehow get extra money out of the customer, or maybe just out of absent-mindedness, you keep them uninformed of the latest developments in what you're doing. Typically it's used by garages when they're working on your car - they promise to phone you, to let you know when certain milestones have been reached, but then you find they don't phone. Days later, possibly, you phone them, and they'll give some excuse like their computer system was down, or the parts didn't arrive, or the guy who does $SYSTEM was off sick, or something like this. These excuses may seem legitimate, but you're still narked because they promised to keep you informed and haven't - they could have phoned to tell you $EXCUSE but didn't, and thus they end up with a pissed off customer. In this instance with Amazon, Amazon may have legitimate excuses, but tell that to the people who bought the old book while the new one was out. The remedy for this antipattern of course is "Keep the Customer well-informed" - let them know when there's a change in status that may be of interest to them and inform their decisions. If you've promised to phone or email, do so. If you have a page that refers to an old edition of the book, put an insert in that points to the second edition saying something like "Hey, you might want to try the latest version!"

Can anyone else find examples of customer service antipatterns and their remedial patterns?

Posted by: Matt Moran | Aug 23, 2005 10:14:33 AM

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