Are iBooks Books Complete? I Bought One Missing Nearly 100 Pages

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I’ve been wanting to re-read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and decided to buy the books to read on my iPad (I already have paperback versions), to benefit from the larger font size. I’m currently near the end of the third book, when I noticed that something was missing. At the end of part III, there’s a section that seemed to not be there. I looked it up in my paperback, and, indeed, pages 459-548 are missing from the ebook edition.

I’m writing to Apple to get a refund (which I’m sure they’ll issue right away; they are pretty good about doing so for any music problems), but I’m somewhat worried about the overall integrity of these ebooks. If I hadn’t read the book before, I might not have noticed the missing part. Sure, there’s a hiccup, but one could assume that it was just glossed over.

So can one assume that ebooks purchased from Apple – or from any other vendor, for that matter – are complete? I’ve seen comments that many of them have editing issues, and I indeed found this to be the case for a Penguin ebook I bought from Amazon.

This is disturbing; are publishers really not performing quality checks for ebooks? In this case, nearly 1/6 of the book is missing; the length of the file should have been checked.

It’s worth noting that this particular book has been the object of several “reviews” in the iBookstore mentioning the glitch (I bought the book before these reviews were posted), some of which mention having contacted Apple. That Apple is still selling the book is at a minimum disturbing.

UPDATE: Apple customer service had me re-download the book. It’s the same. They didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t a faulty download, but rather a problem with the actual book file that they are peddling. This leads to a problem: since customer service reps probably can’t escalate this type of problem to those who can take care of it, these issues may take a long time to be resolved.

UDATE 2: Apple has replied (much more quickly this time) to my follow-up e-mail, saying:

“I’m sorry to hear that the new copy of “The Waste Lands” is also missing the same section as the first copy. I am sure you were looking forward to reading the entire book and I would be more than happy to assist you with your refund request.

“I have reversed the charge for this iBook. In three to five business days, a credit of $6.99 should be posted to the credit card that appears on the receipt for that purchase.

“I have also submitted this item for investigation. Apple takes the quality of the items offered on the iTunes Store seriously and will investigate the issue with this item, but I can’t say when or if the issue will be resolved. Please try again in a few weeks if you would like.”

Note the “when and if” part, which suggests that this will never be fixed…

18 replies
  1. Kara Bay says:

    Yikes! That has me a little concerned. I rarely re-read anything, because there are still so many books I haven’t read. How am I to know if something is missing.

    I’ve also come across a lot of typos in the e-books I have been reading, mostly purchased from Apple and Amazon. I certainly hope they are not just scanning the books and putting them out there. But if they are actually taking the time to edit them, they are not doing a very good job. I run across typos in printed books from time to time, but I find multiple typos in every ebook I read.

  2. kirk says:

    Some of the typos I’ve seen in ebooks suggest that they are indeed scanning them, not converting existing files. But I haven’t bought any new ebooks, so maybe for the old ones they don’t have files.

  3. WaltFrench says:

    There may be a fault in the file that the publisher sends to Apple; that type of error might happen more in the early adopters’ files. I dunno what error-checking Apple insists on, but obviously Apple doesn’t have control over what content crosses their threshold.

    Or, the ebook software may have a fault that causes it to stop displaying info that’s actually on your iPad. I’ve recently seen a PDF that is handled OK on my laptop, but that users claim stops abruptly on page 51 when viewed on the iPad. Very likely, this is actually a coding bug in the file also, but one which the iPad handles less well than the MacOSX software.

    Either way, stay vigilant and complain to Apple if it happens more than once or twice, that their as-delivered quality control should put you on the payroll. They seem to like the JD Powers scores that they get and will probably pay attention.

  4. freegame says:

    I have read a handful of ebooks from which I also listened to the audio-book. The ebooks were fine, but the audio-books sometimes had a half a sentence or so missing at the end of a chapter. To make sure that i did not miss big parts I got the ebooks. they seem to be fine.

    • renaud says:

      For audio bocks, mâle sure you do ont crossfade your audiobook. It would fade out the end of the file and fade in the following one. Maybe this is whatnis happening to you?

  5. kirk says:

    Oh, I know it’s not Apple’s fault. But it is disturbing that this is relatively common, based on comments I’ve seen, both from Apple and from Amazon. I wonder if it is, as you say, just something the prevents the text from displaying. Since it’s DRMed, there’s no way of examining the file to find out.

  6. Kara Sjoblom-Bay says:

    Ugh – that is pretty lame. Sorry – we don’t think we can fix this, so we are just giving you your money back. Apparently they don’t get that you would rather have the complete book.

  7. Chet Williams says:

    I have had the same thing happen before on TV shows where they fail to transfer over the entire show.

    They forced me to re-download too but second-level support realized it was a problem with the source file submitted by the content owner. They pulled the episodes shortly thereafter.

  8. Smitty says:

    I used to work for an ebook company, and these things can be a real bear to trace and fix. Add to that the issue of the publishers having to pay for conversion, and it may not get done. We had publishers that would send in files with horribly incorrect data (charts in lo-rez, tables in disarray, etc.) but their response was always “just get the book out” rather than deliver a quality product. I have little respect left for some major publishers as a result. (Not all of them, just some.)

    As the “digital bookstore”, Apple has as much clout as your local B&N or Borders: they can apologize and refund your money, but they can’t magically produce sections of data that have not been delivered to them.

  9. James says:

    FYI, Apple hasn’t corrected the issue yet. I did the same download and the last 19 chapters of Section V are missing.

    As with your experience, Apple directed me to download the book again.

  10. Ian Wardell says:

    I don’t understand this. How can they be allowed to sell a claimed unabridged novel which has almost 1/6th of that novel missing??

    And surely people must be employed to proofread these ebooks?? They surely can’t simply be relying that the OCR will be accurate!

  11. James Gowan says:

    I’m planning on finally reading that collection and I hate to hear that this content is missing.

    However: Good thing it’s Stephen King. You can bet he’s heard of the problem at this point and will make sure it gets corrected. I think I’ll pop over to his website and send him an email or something. He’s so big that this will eventually get fixed.

  12. Paul says:

    I just ran into this problem after purchasing the book a few months ago but put off reading it. I went to redownload it and the problem has been resolved, however iBooks charged me again for the book, so I will still need to be contacting them for a refund.

    • kirk says:

      When did you redownload it? The only review of the book (Apple has deleted the other negative reviews mentioning the missing section) says that there’s still a missing part, and it’s dated August 17.

  13. Hailey says:

    I have had lots of my ebooks showing a page amount but when I download then I’m missing parts. Parts that if you didn’t have the actual book to compare, you never know they were missing. How is the consumer to know if they’re actually getting all of the book if we don’t have a page number to compare to what we downloaded….frustrated!

  14. holly says:

    Missing chapters has now happened to me with my last THREE books I downlaoded…girl with the dragon tatoo, The Emyth, and 4-Hour Body.

    Since I didn’t notice the chapters missing from the EMyth until about 3.5 months later (I don’t always immediately read the books I download) they refused to give me a refund….insane! If the product isn’t complete, why would they expect someone to pay for it..especially in this case when it’s really tough to know if a chapter is missing. The pages are all numbered consecutively and it’s not easy to notice that chapters are missing unless you cross check them with the chapters listed in the index…but why should the consumer be responsible for this! I would assume at this point of complaints and refunds that they would do something about it!? Apple is one of the highest grossing companies in the world.. so why is it that they can’t properly deliver a complete book. So frustrating. I have since emailed the publisher regarding The EMyth but I imagine it will be a small drop in a giant ocean of complaints. At this point I’m sticking with analog books until they can figure it out.


    • WaltFrench says:

      Easy answer: they don’t, and they can’t expect you to pay for faulty material. You need to escalate, or contact the publisher, both of which sound like a PITA.

      While 3.5 months is a bit long for most warranty checks, the vendor (Apple?) knows damn good and well whether the book was defective. If it was the type of problem the original post mentioned, the publisher should be happy to fix it for you.


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