For those individuals who have been afflicted with the “Political Bug” the book Game Change has been a much awaited fix. The irony however lies in how this particular book has marked a significant change in the e-book distribution game.
Harper Collins has chosen to delay the Kindle release to assuage its fear of cannibalizing sales. In the process of assuaging these fears—whether rational or irrational—it has set loose a whole different set of cannibals: potential Kindle book buyers.
The ensuing firestorm has directly impacted the book’s ratings as many Kindle customers have chosen to use a controversial tactic to voice their chagrin. I am alluding to the use of a one-star review, in which a commenter slams a book or publication for reasons concerning pricing and/or availability.
Kindlers are divided in the use of this “nuclear option” because they do not want to harm a book’s financial success in order to address a perceived slight. There are those however who have decided that a one-star review is the most effective way to be heard, take Lucy from Fort Worth, Texas for instance, who writes the following:
Another frustrated kindle reader who cannot purchase this book to read. One star for not making the book available to read to a large section of the reading public.
She is reiterating a theme that has become common with digital era consumers, as they demand timely access to new books.
The long-term impact of this tumultuous moment may reverberate through the publishing world as companies begin to reassess the sustainability of delayed e-releases. One has to believe that there is an inverse relationship between the use of this tactic and consumers’ tendency towards brand loyalty. Take R.A. Schein from New Orleans, who asks:
Not available on Kindle! What’s up with this? Is this some publisher power play? Too many Kindle and other e reader sale cutting into hardback sales? Well I want to read this book on my investment, my Kindle. Publishers, please don’t try to manipulate the market place. E readers are an enormous wave of the future, don’t stand in its’ way.
It is becoming apparent that the economics of publishing are being radically altered by the rapid growth of e-books. Publishers are utilizing a whole host of strategies such as DRM, or delayed e-releases in their attempts to remain the gatekeepers of literature. The true impact of the book Game Change may lie outside of the realm of politics as it forces us to question the fairness of delaying e-book releases.
Ultimately, publishers’ fears of book sales being cannibalized may be baseless as a recent O’Reilly internal study has tenuously concluded. Calls however have come from many voices over the last couple of months such as Cory Doctorow who have insisted that consumers be given better access to books if not outright ownership.
The emotionally charged situation created by Harper Collins’s decision to delay its book’s e-release is one that has highlighted not only a rift within Amazon’s customers but also between traditional book readers and Kindle readers. The two individuals I have cited above have been slammed for voicing their opinions—Schein has received an 8 agreed out of 72 viewers, while 6 agreed out of 47 viewers for Lucy.
Cynics viciously weighing in have referred to them as “sensitive children with toys” for simply stating that they have been offended by this particular publisher’s actions. Apparently, publishers may seem to tacitly agree with these e-book cynics as is evidenced by their continued use of delayed e-releases.