41d5lRN+AJL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA115_.jpgFor 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.

Note: TeleRead previously covered use of the one-star “nuclear option” to protest the computer game Spore’s restrictive DRM.


  1. Unfortunately for publishers these sensitive children with toys are representative of the only segment of the book purchasing world that is growing. It will be more profitable to pay attention to us, than not.

  2. I shrugged, then I placed my advance order for the delayed Kindle edition. Delaying the book a month annoys me, but I’ve got plenty of other things to read for the next month and I’m not going to pay more for a hardcover.

  3. Delaying e-publication is simply a poor business decision made by the publisher. However, it is their decision to make. That said, if publishers are forced to access the Amazon channel by offering books at a ridiculously low $9.99, then perhaps it is not a poor decision. Only titles with sufficient sales volume can recoup production costs at that sales level. E-lovers take heart and be patient…once content is ‘born digital’ and printed on demand and offered electronically, all of these issues will be resolved.

    What publishers don’t seem to understand is this: by delaying electronic editions they are foregoing sales among academic institutions that have selected “e” as a preferred format within their approval plan. For those vendors who are capable of offering “e” vs. “p” selection, the print will simply not be purchased regardless of when it is published as long as an electronic edition is not available when title notification is made.

    Publishers: wake up. Electronic books are here to stay. Change you models. Treat electronic as simply another format. These books are different than paperback, or hardcover, but in many cases, cheaper to distribute. Hello?!?

  4. here’s how the story goes for me. for the past three days i have been foaming at the mouth for game change. i would have downloaded it to my kindle at 12:00:01 am if it were available. it wasn’t. i’ve calmed down and have ordered it thru interlibrary loan. free. oh, well, $9.99 in my pocket. maybe i’ll get a latte while i’m reading my library copy of game change. publishers . . . sheesh!

  5. This is a great idea. We are always told to vote with our feet. From now on, I will be giving every book I would like to purchase a poor rating if it is not available in an e-book. Eventually, my voice will be heard when there is enough feedback.

  6. A lot of things can happen in 30 days.
    A month from now, it may be that nobody will care about the book. It certainly isn’t generating any headlines now…
    Note, though; that while nobody forces publishers to sell their books *solely* via Amazon’s “ridiculously low” $9.99 price, Harper Collins isn’t selling it via *any* other ebook channel at any price.
    This is *not* a Kindle issue; this is an idiot publisher issue. This is HC not realizing that the ebook buyers will *not* be treated as second class citizens.
    The only Kindle-ish aspect is that Kindle is building (horror of horrors!) an organized community of avid readers.
    Makes me wonder what would happen if Amazon should choose to create a native social-network application for Kindle to let Kindle readers leverage their collective clout.
    Publishers that choose not to reach out to ebook readers should be very afraid; things will only get “worse”. Network effects are subtle but powerful forces and “Ridiculously low” pricing is not going away.
    Deal with it, folks.

  7. I’ve been keeping up with the on-going discussion regarding this topic and would like to share some of my thoughts. In a recent issue of “VFW” magazine, I came across an article that detailed the three human responses to danger. One was to fight, the other to stand still, and the last one to run. In your responses I have seen some of these characteristics. Some of you have joined the one star revolt, others have used your public library, while some have done as the publisher wanted. That being said, publishers have built their houses on a shifting foundation, which is being threatened by e-books. Harper Collins chose to treat Kindle users differently and in doing so has paid a heavy price. Felix Torres touched on it perfectly when he brought up the influence of social networks. Kindlers -if TBI’s 90% market share number is to be believed- are the e-book market. Harper Collins made a judgment call regarding a late release and in doing so forgot about the collective power of Kindle buyers. The “9.99 Boycott” and the “text to speech” groups are perfect examples of Kindlers leveraging their power. When I wrote this piece there were 47 one star reviews, two days later there are 73. Harper Collins has a hot potato on their hands.

  8. How is this any more bothersome than the delay for a paperback edition? It seems to me that there’s a generation’s long precedent for this practice.

    That said, I’d greatly prefer ‘burning’ the publisher by relying on library copies rather than skewing the amazon ratings for the title. The stars are useful for potential readers; they’re not just marketing tools.

  9. Waiting for the HC/PB window may have been acceptable before, but these days consumers are “trained” by advertising and businesses to expect instant gratification and immediate delivery. This is why the kindle sells so many books when people get the urge from seeing a book somewhere, it is too easy to spontaneously buy it.

  10. The answer was simple. Harper Collins should have offered Kindle users the book at the same price Amazon readers were able to buy the hard back version. I would have bought the “Game Change” for my Kindle at that price. “Game Change” is not like “Gone With The Wind” which is still an excellent read decades after it was first published. “Game Change” will only be fascinating for a short period of time. By the time Feb. 23 rolls around, I am sure that there will be some other scandal holding our attention and “Game Change” will be old news. Unless “Game Change” becomes available to Kindle users in the next week, I will not purchase it.

  11. You can’t stop progress.

    The publishing industry will learn this the same way the film and music industries have: the hard way.

    It’s a shame they’re not capable of learning from each other’s mistakes.

    E-books will save publishing. If publishing lets them.

  12. Publishers should be allowed to charge whatever they want for an E-Book. Why not allow them to sell Game Change at a $20 price point for the first 30 days and then reduce to a standard price point?

    I blame Amazon’s pricing restrictions, not the publisher… especially for a book like this that becomes less relevant every week following its release date.

  13. At some point we will just skip Harper Collins and their ilk altogether. They do not need to be making any decisions for the reader. They are doing it poorly now.
    I foresee the Kindle groups morphing into organizations that provide access to individuals who are editors who want to freelance, to authors who want to publish.
    By agreeing to split to revenues of the books they create as they sell through an open forum directly to the Kindle’s (or whatever platform) growing user base, they will help a new model rise that obsoletes the restrictive, outdated, out-of-touch publishing industry. These kinds of idiotic decisions just move that closer to reality.

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