by Le Ha
As information technology improves and the internet becomes more popular, more people are starting to shop online. Book sellers have been quick to capitalise and online book stores are widespread. They are even using book sales to attract buyers to other products, including souvenirs, clothes, sports equipment, card games, electronics, technology appliances and even furniture.
This has left the true book lovers a little disheartened. While it is more convenient for some customers to order and receive goods at home, there is also a downside.
Just type the key words "on-line bookstore" or "e-book shopping" into a Google search and you will find hundreds of websites selling books – such as Fahasasg, Vinabook, Sahara, phuongnambook, Tiki, Chibooks, Meta, Phanthi, Nhanvan, DaiViet or Sieuthisach365 – you will not only find lists of books, but photos and prices for all sorts of office equipment.
The sites often claim that, compared to visiting shops and department stores, this saves time and provides a wider variety of choices. One reader, Le Anh Hoang, says that buying books on-line is much more convenient.
He also enjoys paying to read e-books and buying on-line software. With the click of a button, he can order his favourite products and pay for them at the same time via e-bank using a variety of credit cards. "It really can be a pleasant experience," he says.
However, e-book selling on Vietnamese sites is still limited. Most sites deal in "real" books and present an outline about them, including images, titles, author and price. But this can be troublesome, because customers cannot check the quality.
For example, if a shopper buys Gone with the Wind, he or she may be disappointed at the translators' writing style and ability. It is a risk, one of the disadvantages of on-line book shopping. In the real world, customers can flip through the pages before deciding to buy.
Many on-line book stores require customers to submit and resubmit many details, such as e-mail, phone numbers and other information that does not deal with the immediate sale and therefore wastes time.
Another problem is that books and goods are often delivered late. Sometimes, websites have no goods left, but do not announce the fact on-line. This means that buyers have to cancel their orders and choose other items.
Another problem is that while many books and goods are offered at discount prices, this is not reflected on the order that arrives with the products. Users also have difficulties accessing websites with poor technology. Another reader, Le Khanh Trang, claims that Vinabook stores are not as efficient as before because they occasionally deliver wrong titles.
Nguyen Thanh Tan complains about books she ordered on Saharavn. The first time, she was delighted to buy a rare book. However, after more than a week, no one answered. She e-mailed and called the book store without success. To date, she claims she still has not received a refund.
Nguyen Hoang Phuong says she also ordered three books on Saharavn, but when they were delivered, only two arrived. Book delivery staff say they are often blamed for delivering poor-quality books, wrong titles or for the fact that sometimes one is missing. However, they are at a loss as to what to do because they are just the messengers.
Some parents are worried about buying books for their children on-line because many foreign publications have sexual content deemed inappropriate for children.
Tran Minh Phuong from HCM City says on-line bookstores argues that by diversifying into other products, book sellers can increase revenue and develop a more sustainable business.
Nguyen Thanh Van An, director of Mekongcom, owner of vinabook.com says that on-line book sales were the foundation of his business. They enabled him to diversify into other products.
Tran Quoc Vinh, an employee at FPT (the corporation financing and promoting technology) says he does not like on-line book stores that sell other goods, especially sex-toys. "If customers want to buy these goods. they should access other sites," he says.
On-line bookstores that want to maintain an air of quality or prestige should avoid selling other products. I think this not only respects readers, but also helps develop reading culture. — VNS