Book publisher stalls, Kindle fans revolt

For e-books, it’s the same story that we’ve seen in movies: Publishers, afraid of losing higher profit margins from physical media sales, try to drive consumers away from new media by delaying new releases. Now, one book publisher is feeling the backlash as Kindle users revolt.

TechFlash reports that “Game Change,” a much-hyped book filled with dirty details on the 2008 presidential election, is being swamped with one-star reviews on Amazon. Its publisher, HarperCollins, has held back on releasing the book for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader until February 23, hoping to drive up sales of the hard copy. Devoted Kindle users aren’t pleased.

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“It seems that the publisher does not understand that as much as I want to read this book, I only read books on my Kindle,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

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“I’m flying in two weeks and would have liked to have read the book, but I’m not going to lug a massive hardcover. You lost a sale,” wrote another.

Despite Amazon’s vested interest in selling more Kindle books, the one-star reviews have been appropriately buried past all of the actual book reviews. Still, the one-star reviews have lowered the average score of “Game Change” to 2.5 stars.

There’s been some interesting discussion on Amazon’s forums as to whether Kindle readers are entitled to day-and-date releases with the hardcover book. On one hand, readers argue that the delay is akin to the late release of paperback books, in order to drive up more lucrative hard cover sales. On the other hand, many publishers release their e-books on the same day as hard cover books. One reader said e-books are like DVDs, which are released after the movie’s been in theaters, while another said e-books are more like music, where record labels don’t withhold iTunes releases just to drum up CD sales.

While I can understand that publishers want to maximize profits, it’s not fair to penalize users of e-readers. They’re using an entirely new format for reading books, and they shouldn’t be forced to revert back to dead tree media.

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