Macmillan Publishing Writes Happy Ending For Damaged Thrift Shop Book

An anonymous reader picked up a copy of Ben Bova’s Mars Life from the Salvation Army without realizing that it was missing thirty-two pages. Books don’t come with warranties, but our reader wanted to know how the story ended. Would the New Morality conservatives stop people from examining that eerie Martian fossil? Would the U.S. government ever solve the pressing environmental crisis? How would our reader know without the missing pages?! Macmillan publishing had the answer.

Anonymous writes:

I bought a copy of Mars Life by Ben Bova and it turned out to be missing 32 pages about 3/4 of the way through the book. It’s a hardcover copy of the book I bought at a Salvation Army thrift store for a dollar. The book isn’t damaged, it just looks like the pages were never put into the binding. I went to the website listed inside the cover and sent them a message about it, including telling them I bought it used at a thrift store.

Someone replied the next business day asking for my address so they can send a new copy! They don’t sell the hardcover version any more so they offered to send a mass-market (paperback) edition. Seeing as how I was happy to buy a book from a thrift store, that was just fine with me.

A week and a half later I can finish the story!

Great work, Macmillan! Nice to see that your authors aren’t the only ones who know how to weave a decent ending.


Edit Your Comment

  1. wrjohnston91283 says:

    Life on Mars by Ben Bovis vs Mars Life by Ben Bova

    Am I missing something or did Carey manage to get the photo right (and the bit about the plot of the book) but the text wrong?

    • milhouse24 says:

      Also, “Macmillan Publishing Writes Happy Ending For Damaged Thrift Shop Book” vs “The book isn’t damaged, it just looks like the pages were never put into the binding.”

  2. boy_poet says:

    Cute, but I’d be far more impressed if they rolled out a digital strategy that doesn’t involve subsidizing their dead tree business by gouging customers with ridiculous ebook prices. Macmillan are the first (and worst) offenders in pushing ebook prices north of $9.99 where they belong.

  3. RvLeshrac says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about MacMillan. The replacement book most likely came out of the author’s royalties, not the publisher’s profits.

    • humphrmi says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the author. He or she now has a loyal reader.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        and since the author has well over 100 other books, there’s plenty of chances to recoup any potential loss

      • DarthCoven says:

        Ben Bova has nothing to worry about. He is an award winning hard science fiction writer with a loyal fanbase. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years back at I-Con. He is a brilliant man and despite his successes he is quite humble. “Mars” and “Return to Mars” are two of my all time favorite novels and now it looks like I have a third book to pick up from the Grand Tour series.

  4. Alvis says:

    Wouldn’t it take less than a week and a half to go to the library?

    • Weekilter says:

      Probably. But you can always count on a good snark to round out a story, eh?

    • TasteyCat says:


      • ChuckECheese says:

        b…o…ok? Buying books on paper at a thrift store so you can read them? What is this, 1985?

        • trillium says:

          Actually you would be shocked at what you can find at thrift stores and yard sales. My DH and I scour every chance we get looking for books that we’ve read previously that are now out of print. One mighty fan example of this are the works of Andre Norton. Her stuff is difficult to find at best and most of our collection has been procured through Ebay. Republishing of her works has been a rumor for awhile since her passing, but not all of her catalog is available.

          Long live the B-O-O-K!!!!

      • dreamfish says:

        I don’t know either. Maybe it’s an app for the iPad.

    • Vinasu says:

      In large urban areas, yes, libraries are very handy. My local library is a FEMA trailer with free wifi, a few encyclopedias, and some mass market paperbacks. There is no interlibrary loan.

      I also buy thrift store books. It’s much cheaper than driving miles to the nearest city, paying for an out-of-town library card, and then doing the drive all over again when the books are due.

      • JamieSueAustin says:

        Also, check out I’ve been using it lately to get books (along with the thrift store). Our library doesn’t carry much in the genres I like, so it’s been a heck of a lot cheaper than my near weekly foray onto amazon.

  5. anime_runs_my_life says:

    God..can you guys PLEASE proofread before publishing? Is that too much to ask for? If you’re not going to proofread, then at least get a spellchecker or hire one of us to do it for you.

    • stormbird says:

      But… but what would we complain and snark about?

      • Anathema777 says:


      • anime_runs_my_life says:

        Sorry. I twitch when I see glaring mistakes. It’s part of my job, so sometimes it’s hard to turn off.

        It’s just been so bad the last few days with very obvious mistakes that haven’t been corrected.

        • f0nd004u says:

          I once dated this girl that was a copy editor. The sex was incredible but I got really really tired of listening to her criticize the grammatical errors in youtube comments. It’s like she went in there looking for a fight.

          But, she ended up being a frigid bitch, so that was the end of that.

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      Wow, it’s nice to hear from someone else who’s like that. I used to have a job that involved proofreading. Hell, I used to have nightmares about copy I’d accidentally memorized. Now, people ask me to look over their stuff on the assumption that I *enjoy* redlining. It’s actually that I have to redline things because typos distract me from content until I do something about them.

  6. DeadWriter says:

    I work with a lot of books, mostly text books. Most of the books I deal with are early in their print cycle, sometimes advanced copies. Every publisher I have ever contacted about a printing problem has been very good at solving the problem. Sometimes they send us extra books or teacher editions when student editions were all that were needed for the project. It can take time, but once you get a human being via the phone or email they almost always seem to be truly interested in fixing the problem.

    Something to note: I don’t recommend telling the publisher that you purchased the books second hand. My general view is that the major publishers hate the secondary sales market as they view it in direct competition and antithetical to their business model. I once sat next to a VP from a major publisher that not only hated the secondary sales markets but also hated libraries. He explained at length why my point of view (and the work I do) was wrong. He didn’t like students either, though his business was selling content to them. It was an uncomfortable flight.

    • Benjamin says:

      It’s not really hard to understand why publishers (both of books and other things) hate secondary sales. Those sales don’t make anyone involved with the actual creation of the work a single penny, just the secondhand store. It is antithetical to their business model, because there’s literally no way for them to monetize it unless they’re the ones buying the used books and reselling them. While they could try to do that, it wouldn’t likely be successful as people aren’t going to go to the extra trouble of reselling to the publisher instead of their local used bookstore. Whether or not you agree with them, it’s at least reasonable on their part, I think.

    • humphrmi says:

      That flight would have been a lot of fun for me. After a couple of Jack and Cokes, I would have probably written “This man is a boob” in large letters on a piece of paper, with an arrow pointing to him, and hung it around my neck with string. Then went to sleep.

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      Tough shit for them. If they’re going to stop publishing the books in such short order, then the secondhand market is the only option left. Most books that make it into secondhand sales aren’t being offered directly anymore.

      True story: I spent over TEN YEARS searching for a reasonably priced paperback copy of Man-Kzin Wars IV. Early in this time period, every existing Man-Kzin book at the time had been republished *except* volume 4. Why? good question. But it means that book 4 was almost impossible to find for a decent price until a couple years ago. If the book had been available, I’d have been happy to buy it, but no.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      wow. what a closed view that man has. a whole lot of readers pick up a used/library book by an unknown author first and then if they like it, move on to buying the author’s latest works.
      plenty of publishing houses are figuring out how much people need free or cheap to get introduced to an author and are offering free online short stories or in a few rare cases, entire free ebooks.
      libraries buy the books from the publisher so it’s like taxpayer dollars pay the publisher for free advertising

      • tsukiotoshi says:

        True! With my kindle I often find novels that turn out to be the first in a series that are listed as free. By the time I finish it obviously I’m going to have to buy the rest of them so I know how the story ends and end up spending another $4-6 per book. In one case, I liked the author so much I read all ten of her other books. Pretty smart on the part of the publishers and Amazon, I think.

      • outis says:

        I’ve seen that used in print form too. Somewhere I have a mass market paperback of the first several chapters of the first Wheel of Time book that was given out for free (ironically purchased at a library’s book sale). Similarly, Free Comic Book Day (though it’s getting harder and harder to find a physical comic store around here).

      • JamieSueAustin says:

        I’ve done that. Especially, if the book is one in a series.

    • kromelizard says:

      To be fair, students are pretty contemptible little shits.

    • Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

      I work for the publisher of this book. We’ve always tried to make good on books with manufacturing errors, and I don’t believe we concern ourselves much with whether the person complaining bought the book retail. A missing 32 pages is almost certainly a bindery error; they happen, there’s not much that can be done to completely eliminate them, and they’re best dealt with unfussily.

      I don’t know about the “VP from a major publisher” you sat next to on a plane, but I’ve always been in favor of libraries and used-book sellers, for a whole lot of reasons, some idealistic and some self-serving. On the latter note, it seems to me that libraries and cheap used books are a big part of how kids and teenagers pick up the habit of reading when they don’t have lots of spare cash with which to buy new books. It certainly worked that way for me.

      Admittedly, speaking as a businessperson, it doesn’t thrill me when online book retailers make it a matter of only one extra click to buy a cheaper “used” copy of the book they’re also offering new, but that’s just the way it goes. People own their books and they’re allowed to sell them. At any rate, I suspect my views on the subject are actually commoner in book publishing than those of the VP you spoke with.

  7. apeirophobia says:

    Argh, the same thing happened to me.
    I was 3/4 way through the book and then noticed about 40 pages were missing. It was a printing issue, since the book was in otherwise good shape. Since I bought it at a second hand bookstore, I never thought of contacting the publisher. It’s good to know that some of them are customer friendly!

  8. duxup says:

    Shoot I was hoping she was disappointed with the ending so they wrote her a new one :(

  9. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Gahh, that happened to me once when I checked a book out of the library and the end was missing. I took it back and they said they’d pull the book, but I never did find out how it ended!!!

    It was also a sci-fi book, but I can’t remember who wrote it.

  10. suburbancowboy says:

    Settle down Bovis.

    Life On Mars is a TV show/Bowie Song.

    Bowie/Bovis/Bova same difference.

  11. golddigger says:

    VP from a major publisher that not only hated the secondary sales markets but also hated libraries.

    Hate the libraries if you wish, but for what I pay in property taxes, I am darn well going to get my books from the library that is three blocks from my house rather than buying them. Maybe if I had children and were using public school resources, I might feel differently. Nah. Probably not. But if I had kids, I wouldn’t have time to read anyhow.

  12. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    This happy ending is brought to you by Dr MaSuess


  13. P_Smith says:

    If Anonymous is listening…

    It might be worthwhile to send MacMillan the money for the paperback, if though you don’t have to. Send the message that their civilized behavior got your loyalty, or at least your money and civility, in return.

    I think I can speak for most consumers (there will always be a few who are never satisfied…) when I say that customers are willing to pay a fair price if they are getting what they paid for. If the book sucked, I doubt Anonymous would have been writing to the publisher, so the least he could do is send five bucks.

    • outis says:

      Wouldn’t they then be buying the book twice? Maybe sending the defective copy back so the publisher’s generosity can’t be taken advantage of in the future would be a better sign of appreciation.

      • kromelizard says:

        Because… you’d like them to throw it in the trash? Mass markets are like newspapers, made to be thrown out.

        • outis says:

          The hardback was the defective one; I’m surprised the publishers didn’t ask for it back so they don’t end up sending another copy to the next person who ends up with it. I’m sure Macmillan’s generosity will dry up real quick if they find they’re sending out multiple replacements for the same defective copy. Granted Anonymous could trash it themselves or just never give it away/resell it, but if we’re talking gestures of good will, sending it back seems a valid solution. Frankly, anything more than advertising that Macmillin went above and beyond (say, on Consumerist) is a pretty big gesture of appreciation for a $1 purchase.

  14. BoredOOMM says:

    So, how DID the book end again?

  15. Skipjim says:

    You know, oddly enough I picked up a book from a thrift store last week that was missing about 30 some odd pages too.

    • perruptor says:

      It’s the result of a manufacturing problem. This is the process for making books:
      1. The pages are printed in groups on huge sheets of paper, both sides.
      2. The sheets of paper are folded repeatedly, until they are slightly larger than the eventual book size. These folded-up sheets are called “signatures,” and the folding results in the pages being in the correct order.
      3. The signatures are collated into stacks that include all the pages in the book. This is where the book in question went wrong. The machine failed to pull the last signature onto the stack. Possibly that bin had run out, and the machine attendant didn’t refill it in time. This can happen to any of the signatures; I’ve had books that were missing part of the middle, and have others that repeated a series of pages.
      4. The collected signatures are bound together by sewing, stitching, or gluing.
      5. The books are trimmed to cut off all the folds, except the ones at the binding.
      6. the cover is attached.

      Most of the operations are automatic, and actually making the book is the cheapest part of publishing it. When I worked at a bindery, there was a book sale once a week, where they let us buy overruns or defective books. Hardcovers cost a dime, and paperbacks were a nickel.

  16. fourclover54 says:

    This happened to me with a used book I picked up called “Stranger Things Happen.” It’s a series of weird short stories and the last page to one of the stories was actually a copy of a page from about 50 pages back (an entirely different story). I never did get to read the ending of that story, but maybe the publisher could send me the page since this person was successful?

  17. pschroeter says:

    Thank You. I hadn’t realized Ben Bova had written a third novel in his Mars series, having very much enjoyed the previous two. I have the library holding it for me right now.

  18. NarcolepticGirl says:

    That’s nice.
    I probably would’ve bought a used copy from Amazon for .99.

    • perruptor says:

      .99 plus $2.99 shipping.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        yes. or is it $3.99 shipping?
        In any case, that’s what I probably would have done.

        But it’s till cool the publisher sent a copy even though the OP stated he bought it at a thrift store.