Hell Hath No Fury Like An e-Book Reader Scorned

Stupidity comes in many shapes and forms.

We can all agree that not a day passes without us witnessing one dumbass or another saying or doing something that leaves us dumbfounded, wondering how they can be such idiots.

I haven't bought into the whole e-book thing, and I don't see myself doing so any time soon. I respect those who love this new format, but I prefer the feel of paper under my fingers. That's just me. If you like to read novels and magazines on your Kindle, iPad, or other devices, all the more power to you.

But e-book readers have given birth to a new phenomenon involving a brand new breed of dumbasses. For some unfathomable reason, disgruntled e-book readers have had a stroke of genius and now leave 1-star reviews on various Amazon sites if the title in question is not yet available in electronic format. It's by no means the first novel to suffer from such attacks, but Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight has been the target of a slew of 1-star reviews solely due to the fact that the e-book edition won't be released till February 2011.

Now I'm not proclaiming that every e-book reader out there is a moron. But those idiots leaving 1-star reviews to make their displeasure known certainly deserve the title. If the shoe fits and all that crap.

Say what you want about Amazon reviews, the sad truth is that they are a tool used by hundreds of readers shopping for books and other products. Granted, Towers of Midnight won't suffer much from this treatment, but a less popular midlist author could see his or her sales go down the crapper based on the fact that his overall average is down to two or three stars simply due to the fact that assholes are bitching about this or that novel not being available in e-book format. Not every customer will take the time to read every single review to realize, to their consternation, that a bunch of idiots left 1-star reviews without having read the work.

Many opine that Amazon should do something to rid itself of the sockpuppet reviews made famous by hacks such as Robert Stanek, and I agree with them. But this new problem should be addressed ASAP, and those who leave such reviews should be banned from being allowed to post reviews like that.

Please excuse publishers that are afraid (with good reason) that an e-Book version of a bestseller will find its way on the intrawebs free of charge for all to download within a good five minutes after becoming available. . . Cheating the industry is one thing, but you are also cheating the author who toiled for months to write the book. Illegal, yes. And not cool at all.

To hear them bitch and whine, you'd think that they are victims of an inexcusable injustice. Sheesh. . . Can anyone tell me exactly why they do that???

Rant over.

Sorry about that. . . :P

34 commentaires:

Kristen said...

There are a lot of one star reviews on Amazon that drive me crazy. I see a lot of one star reviews for omnibus editions of books - not because these people hated the book, but because they didn't realize it was a collection containing the same books they already had. So a lot of times people who actually loved the books give it one star because they got excited about a new book in a series just to find out it wasn't new. I hate seeing good books get 1 star reviews just because people failed to do their research before buying it.

Larry said...

Reviewers that focus on the format rather than the content are idiots. When I read a review, I want to know if I'm going to like it. I've already accepted the fact that I will get it only in certain formats. Stop the BS reviews.

Now, the ToM thing, according to Brandon Sanderson, is Harriet (Jordan's widow). She's justifiably nervous about the electronic format, but she hasn't thought the thing through. TOWERS will be available online within a week. You can put money on it. No later than 11/9, someone will have scanned it and uploaded it to a torrent site. People will download it; the estate will receive nothing from those downloads. It's entirely likely that ebook sales would have cut into hardcover sales, but at least they would have been sales.

Lynn said...

Pat,
May I suggest that you look into this a little deeper. You might find more factual answers to your questions. Try looking at an article today on Teleread.com. And spend some time reading on Mobileread.com as well. You will find both pros and cons to both sides of story. Hope this helps.

machinery said...

my approach is a little different.
call it balance if you want.
because i remember that a few years ago every book would have a description of the content, the story.
now, for some reason, this almost doesn't exist, only book details.
so i HAVE to go to the reviews to read what the hell the book is about.
if amazon is doing this as a promotional thing (because some reviews seem to be the product of "critics"), then why not 1 star reviews by actual readers ?

Tyson said...

As a eReader user I tend to buy the book if it is available in that format otherwise if I can't wait I do a book depository purchase. I rarely put up reviews on Amazon as they are all over the place. To leave a 1 starred review due to availability is weird to me.

I switched as the shelves were getting burdened and as I live abroad I can take eformat with me much easier.

Tara Maya said...

While I've never done this, and would not, I still think it is a legitimate form of protest.

There are other one-star review protests that I agree *are* dumbass. For instance, I saw an idiot reader who gave a book one-star because the (second-hand) book the reader bought was slow to arrive in the mail. The reason this is dumb is that neither the writer nor the publisher (a) get any money from that sale, or (b) have any control over it. And (c) there is a legitimate place for the a customer to review shipping service that penalizes the appropriate party.

But in the case of ebook delivery and pricing -- the publishers asked for this by strong-arming Amazon into raising prices. The publishers control the timing of the delivery of the book.

Is it fair to the writer? Yes. The writer chose the publisher as a business partner. Writers are warned against self-publishing or going with small publishers because those don't match the reach of big publishers. True. But if big publishers eff-up and do something to deliberately screw the consumer, the writers are going to suffer from the association -- it's the flip side of usually benefiting from it.

I have been quite infuriated by the ridiculous pricing publishers have put on ebooks. I've seen ebooks (for nonfictin, admittedly) priced at over $100. Wtf? Seriously, wtf? Why would any publisher do that to their writers? Why would they do that to their customers? Publishers who do that *deserve* a one-star.

And there is no where else to give that feedback to the publisher than on the review for the book itself. And why shouldn't that book go down on the list of books because price makes it inaccessible? The fact is, accessibility makes a huge difference in reading experience.

Anonymous said...

There are far more complaints about amazon-reviews. Ratings not based on the book or story itself always oppress the prose's value.
F.e. some wrong letters or missing words in some not very good spell-/grammar-checked issues. Is this relevant for the author's idea, original writing abilities and more?
Other examples are that some just like easy reads (anything where to use brain is unacceptable), specific authors (bad ratings just for pushing other authors or out of hate), conservative judgements of books because its level of blood/brutality is too high even if clearly having a horror/adult fantasy product in hands.
"... judge a book by it's cover" is also a bad habit.

William Lexner said...

The biggest problem that I see is that someone will scan the book and make the novel available for free online before it is available for ebook purchase.

Publishers are simply being stupid and short sighted.

But then, the entire ebook revolution is going to change publishing in a severe way.

Arthur said...

Good thing about amazon is you can always return.

I agree that amazon isn't really the right place to make their displeasure known, but I can see where they're coming from. I prefer hard copies myself, so if they'd released an ebook version of Towers and left the hard copy publication until next year Feb., I would have been pissed.

I'd imagine for an ebook lover, the experience would be similar, although their case is less strong since the ebook format hasn't really been completely adopted yet.

ParadoxicalDr said...

It always cracks me up when you mention Robert Stanek and sock puppet reviews :D

David Moore said...

I read an Amazon review recently for a book, which stated that the reader liked it, that it dealt with the subject matter well, that it invoked the mood well and established the characters well, but that since (essentially) it wasn't how the reader would have written it, it deserved one star. It was a bit weird.

Anyway, to add to the discussion as to why ebooks don't always come out at the same time as hardcopy: it's not always fear of piracy. It's sometimes that we publishers don't have the rights.

Could be a contract for three books was signed three years ago, before ebooks were such a big deal, and the writer decided to hold onto the electronic rights, and now we have to negotiate separately for the electronic rights for all three books. Could be the agent insisted on the ebooks going out later than the hardcopy to maximise sales.

Could be that we made the book and sent it to the vendor, and it just didn't go up on the website... for a couple of months. No matter how many emails we send them. Not that I'm bitter. :)

Even weirder is the grief we get because our ebooks haven't come out in the right format, dammit! We put them out in EPUB and MOBI, through about four or five different vendors (and climbing), and still we field grumbles from readers who want it through a specific vendor that we haven't managed to push ourselves through... yet.

So please, ebook-reading one-star-reviewer guys, in case Pat has managed to neither persuade you nor send you angrily away from his site, do give us a moment's love. We are all now aware of how important epublishing is; we are all doing what we can to publish through as many channels as we can; we even, pretty much, all see the virtue of simultaneous publishing. But it can be harder than you probably think.

Cecrow said...

I've also seen 1-star reviews for products that weren't delivered on time or had other trouble in their delivery. Amazon needs a two-tier review system; one for quality, one for service. Are they gonna do it? No chance (cost the overhead). I hope the 1-star reviews at least make clear the reason for their displeasure, and I hope our internet-savvy world of today isn't too dissuaded by an average review rating without reading the content of those reviews.

With respect to ToM specifically, I think we'll see this initial wave of disgruntled e-readers pass in short order, and then be overwhelmed by the real reviews.

Peter said...

How hard could it possibly be to release the book and the ebook on the same day?

They should be bombarding the publisher with emails, however. But perhaps this way, they might get things done. Annoying yes, but effective in the long run, maybe.

If there are that many folks doing it then it just goes to show that something is wrong with the system.

When I got to Amazon reviews I generally look at the 2,3,4 star reviews, discounting any 5's and 1's.

WordTipping said...

My opinions are the same as Paul Carr from TechCrunch...http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/22/im-not-kidding-do-it-now/

I think publishers are bit out of touch when it comes to digital books but punishing the author via one star reviews is asinine.

Then again, I still don't really get the Kindle. I would much rather have an actual book.

cwalker228 said...

I have to agree with you here. Lots of one star reviews for odd reasons. Such as, book arrived a day late, it was scratched when I got it, or "this book is too shocking, I stopped after the first 10 pages." I personally read the one star reviews first. And have purchased many books because of the one star review. I am not a violence-loving, porn freak (at least I don't think I am) but many people will give a book one star if it has to much violence in the battles or if it has "sex" scenes, evidentally some find this to be taboo in a fantasy novel. I on the other hand find the more mature fantasy novel more to my liking, so that's one of the reasons I read the one-star reviews first.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I agree with the 1-star commenters (although I'm not one of them). Not publishing the ebook simultaneously was absurd.

I'm sure there are already OCR'd ebook torrents, and if there aren't, there will be in a few weeks.

And what other recourse do Kindle owners have to put pressure on the publisher? If a few 1-star reviews drive away a few buyers, good. Maybe Tor will give Harriet a Nook or a Kindle and a course in how to use it.

All that being said, I did buy the hardcover, and did read it, and enjoyed the contents. But the book physically - definitely not so much.

-- A Kindle owner

amysrevenge said...

I get what Pat's main point is.

Whether a delay in selling the e-book is reprehensible or solid business practice should be IRRELEVANT when reviewing the book.

It could be that there are proper avenues to make your displeasure regarding e-book scheduling known. It could be that no such avenue exists.

Regardless, a one-star review is not the appropriate means to voice your outrage about scheduling issues. It cheapens the review as a way of gathering information.

Anonymous said...

I am a Kindle owner. I was a little disappointed that ToM was not available yet. I am pushing myself to finish Way of Kings to get to ToM. Here are two simple solutions for the ebook and review problem.

1. Go to the library to get the book if you don't want to pay for the hard back. Yes you must turn pages and hold a heavy book...get over it!!
2. Amazon has to restrict reviews to people that have actually bought the book from Amazon. There would be less reviews but they would all be based on content not imature idiots complaining.

Craig
Holland, PA

Kenny Cross said...

Ah back in the good old days when Amazon only sold books...

To be honest I never take seriously the ratings and reviews on Amazon products anymore. I haven't for years. More often than not it's some 'fake' name of someone who is associated with promoting the said item - or it's a 1-star review written by some angst filled shut-in who thinks it's hilarious to rip new products whether it be books, CD's, movies. It seems silly to me but it does suck that it drives down the ratings for authors that readers aren't familiar with.

e-readers...I just don't get those. I love the smell of books, the texture of the pages, the sound of pages turning, the solidity of the book in my hands. And no, I would not convert to an e-reader that was scratch-n-sniff and came with sound effects - although that's not a bad idea!

Most of all what I love about books is that I have an actual physical object that is the book that I own. Of course I have my own house and many rooms to fill out with books so I suppose that helps.

Liviu said...

So I see the amazon 1 star reviews for product format seem to be effective and get attention; job done, case closed!

Amazon is in it for the money do not forget and they will do whatever they think it's best for their bottom line and since they are pushing Kindle books hard, it is their interest to have them after all, so if you dislike the 1 star reviews, write to Amazon and tell them they are wrong...

See if they listen and if not maybe stop using their links on your sites and maybe that way they notice...

I find it a bit hypocritical for people banging on Amazon for their review policies and sending them business through links in the same time.

cwalker228 said...

Also,

Maps on the Kindle suck, IMO. If a book has a map I buy the HB or TPB edition.

Anonymous said...

http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/17/belkin-rep-hiring-folks-to-write-fake-reviews-on-amazon/

Anonymous said...

http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2009/11/04/one-more-reason-not-to-trust-reader-reviews/

The Fantasizer said...

Yeah if you really wanna read the book buy it on hardcover it won't kill you!!!

Skip said...

So I get that you don't like the one-star review method of delivering feedback to the publisher. But what I don't see is any suggestion of an alternative feedback path that would be anywhere near as effective. Prior to this, the only way we could deliver feedback would be to just not buy the book in question. And that's certainly likely to cause problems for the author.

By doing it this way, a publisher with a clue might go, "hey, if I hadn't screwed this up, then maybe sales would be higher".

Of course that's not likely in this case - the entire Macmillan family seems incapable of this. Case in point - the audiobook edition of Towers of Midnight. It's MSRP $80, and it comes on 38 CDs. And there's basically nobody in this day and age that still wants their audio on CD. So the first thing that a good portion of the folks buying it are going to do is rip the CDs to MP3 - but for 38 CDs that's a real PITA. They're probably spending several dollars in production costs extra in order to produce the works in a format that their user base, by and large, simply doesn't want. And based on the amazon selling price of audiobooks versus MSRP, I'd guess that the wholesale cost is probably 50% of the MSRP, in which case, this several dollars cuts their profits on the audiobook in question significantly.

Ryan said...

You know who drives me even more nuts? Dumbasses who make purchases based on user review ratings, instead of actually reading reviews posted, thereby weeding out the legitimate reviews from the bad.

TW said...

Wait...

People pay attention to amazon reviews?

LacyinTX said...

I love my Kindle. I much prefer carrying it to lugging around a hardback book. However, if the e-version is available at the same time, and it is a title that I collect, I will buy both. Kindle format to read, hardback to look good on my bookcase. If the hardback is my only option, I will buy it and read it, but then I won't purchase the e-version when it comes out later. So the publisher/author misses out on an extra sale from me by not having them available at the same time.

For whatever its worth....

L

Mark said...

Ha. The very fact that you are ranting about it at least proves the 1 star protest is working somewhat.

Anonymous said...

This turned into a two-part post - sorry!!

Much as I'd love to really weigh in on this one, the whole to-and-fro kind of misses the point. Hard-cover books were originally published because that was the market. Then the publishers (and there were many) realised that they could sell more books to more people by publishing in a cheaper format - but still publishing them (i.e. print presses etc).

The real issue here is the paradigm shift that the e-evangelists espouse - all must be published electronically and nothing must be in hard copy unless it's also in e-print.

The publishers - quite naturally, as their business is predicated on hard copy - kick back at that. So too do those who prefer to receive and read their books in hardcover, or those who prefer to wait until the paperback is available.

Against those are set, as I mention above, the e-evangelists and/or those who have the ebook type readers or who prefer that experience.

There is nothing wrong with the latter desire, and quite frankly, I am a little surprised that the publishers seem to be somewhat slow about picking up on this.

Now I am an industry outsider - I read books, I don't write, edit or publish books. I buy books. I don't throw away books. I have never in my life thrown away a book. In fact, whilst I am steadily replacing - because I am in a fortunate position to be able to - the early paperbacks (that I bought when I was young and had no money) with the original first editions (hard or paper back), I keep all the original paperbacks.

Nevertheless, what I wanted to suggest was something which would hopefully appeal to all.

It strikes me that, from the publishers' side, it's an issue of revenue - they spend a good deal of money to bring an author to market.

From a reader's side, it's hit and miss, but the reader is not taking any financial risk in the author - it is simply not fair on any publisher to demand that a low revenue edition be brought to market before there is a proven market for it.

My understanding has always been that - other than for established authors, where the hardcover has become a "collectors' item", - the hardcover - being a limited print run (or more recently the trade paperback size), serves as a marketing 'tester'. Assuming sales are within margin, the mass paperback edition follows.

I accept that the step from electronic copy to print, and electronic copy to e-book, seems to be so close as to be intertwined, but I do think that there is more to it than this.

There is, of course, a cost of bringing a book to market. There is also a cost of bringing a book to the e-market. This latter is - I would suspect - more a function of the way it used to be done not changing more than the way it could be done. That being said, there is perhaps some room for manoeuvre, so that hardcopy and e-book are produced simultaneously.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - this got me riled up and turned a simple comment into a full bore moan .. !! So sorry.

Much as I'd love to really weigh in on this one, the whole to-and-fro kind of misses the point. Hard-cover books were originally published because that was the market. Then the publishers (and there were many) realised that they could sell more books to more people by publishing in a cheaper format - but still publishing them (i.e. print presses etc).

The real issue here is the paradigm shift that the e-evangelists espouse - all must be published electronically and nothing must be in hard copy unless it's also in e-print.

The publishers - quite naturally, as their business is predicated on hard copy - kick back at that. So too do those who prefer to receive and read their books in hardcover, or those who prefer to wait until the paperback is available.

Against those are set, as I mention above, the e-evangelists and/or those who have the ebook type readers or who prefer that experience.

There is nothing wrong with the latter desire, and quite frankly, I am a little surprised that the publishers seem to be somewhat slow about picking up on this.

Now I am an industry outsider - I read books, I don't write, edit or publish books. I buy books. I don't throw away books. I have never in my life thrown away a book. In fact, whilst I am steadily replacing - because I am in a fortunate position to be able to - the early paperbacks (that I bought when I was young and had no money) with the original first editions (hard or paper back), I keep all the original paperbacks.

Nevertheless, what I wanted to suggest was something which would hopefully appeal to all.

It strikes me that, from the publishers' side, it's an issue of revenue - they spend a good deal of money to bring an author to market.

From a reader's side, it's hit and miss, but the reader is not taking any financial risk in the author - it is simply not fair on any publisher to demand that a low revenue edition be brought to market before there is a proven market for it.

Anonymous said...

Part 2

I suspect that the e-book readers would complain more about the price of an electronic version being published at the same time as the hardback version - but the costs of bringing any book to market require any publication house to seek to recoup those costs as soon as possible, and why should a reader of the electronic version - whose copy could potentially last for a greater length of time than that of a hard cover buyer (although that's another topic!!) - pay any less than any other reader at that point in the production cycle? There are arguments for and against, but I find none of them overly persuasive. Both sides' arguments have tended to be overly self-serving, as will be most (if any) comments on this post.

Nevertheless, I happen to agree with the idea of a book being published in hard copy first. I also happen to think that the publishers - as they're publishing their hard covers - ought to consider things like free downloads of the e-book - when available - if one has bought the hard cover (technically how one does this, I don't pretend to know - bar codes / promo codes .. I don't know). I do think that any e-version ought to be available at the publication of the first edition hardcover, and should be similarly marked - so one could buy a first e-book edition .. etc. E-books could, also, follow a similar price trajectory to that of the hard copy - hardback to paperback - and at the same time - i.e. you pay full cost at launch and then the price drops as you wait for the paperback.

What seems entirely unfair is the militant desire to acquire first readership 'rights' by acquiring electronic copies for free or cheaply, whilst requiring that a fellow reader pays more and, effectively subsidises one's own reading.

malazan said...

@Patrick

u left out an important point ,it was only after Brandon Sanderson got so many complaints regarding the e-book not being available that he requested Harriet McDougal to make the e-book available sooner (Feb.2011),she wanted it to be out in November 2011!!!

as for ur point regarding the e-book being pirated if it came out along with the Hardcover,well,guess what?a scanned copy is already floating around on various sites!

Anonymous said...

Amazon should allow for their to be two sets of ratings.
1. story review
2. Technical or Publisher review Which would include everything from the print and paper quality of the book to ebook spelling and grammar mistakes.
Both avg. star ratings should then be shown for each book.