Friday, November 5, 2010

Towers of Midnight, 1 Star Reviews, eBooks, and Price Discrimination

While there are a few blogs that have mentioned this fun situation, most notably Pat, James, and Jeff, I have been silently fuming and therefore need to put pen to paper...or...fingers to keys.

Brandon Sanderson's Tweets from a few weeks back deal with, in large majority, the fact that the eBook for Towers of Midnight comes out much later than the Hardback version that just came out this week. He concedes that it's coming out too late, talks to the right people, and gets the date moved up a bit.

Then we see a slew (13 out of 63) of one star reviews coming in for Towers of Midnight solely because people are mad that it's not coming out right away electronically.

I admit, I have yet to jump on the eReader bandwagon and I probably will soon enough (I think I've mentioned the lack of funds before). I don't have an ebook and therefore I have no passion for ebooks yet. That's my warning.

What this really comes down to is Price Discrimination. The Publishing market has been the prime example of Price Discrimination for just about every economics professor known to man. In order to decrease the amount of consumer surplus (and therefore increase revenues), the publishing market takes advantage of the fact that many people are very excited about the newest book coming out. So much so that they are willing to pay extra for that opportunity to read the book immediately.

I know there are other reasons for people wanting to buy hardback books. They're nice to have, they look good, they're more durable for multiple readings...but they also represent the opportunity for the publisher to make some extra money on those people who do not want to wait. Hence why the mass market paperback doesn't come out for another year or so after the hardback. Why aren't we complaining that the mmpb isn't coming out now?

Now there are eBooks. And even with the increased price (which I think is the only part where complaints are legitimate), they still take away quite a bit from the hardback sales. A publisher is not going to do this. That's their bread and butter.

Coming to my point. I think it's really sad that people have gone to Amazon to post 1 star reviews about the book. I know we're in the age of instant gratification. We need cell phones that let us check email because we can't be out of touch for more than a second.

But, if you want to read a book, you still have to pay the premium, just like we always have. If you want the discount, you have to wait a bit.


  1. I have to admit that I no longer pay a lot of attention to reviews on Amazon largely because people tend to put 1 star reviews for things that are beyond the authors control and aren't about whether or not you thought the book was any good, which to me is the point of a review.
    I do have to ask a question about the UK and the US publishing market, though. In Australia we generally get UK editions and when a title like the Towers of Midnight comes out it's in hardback and the larger paperback format which is referred to as a trade paperback, they don't have hardcovers, but they're considerably cheaper and a way for someone on a budget to afford the book straightaway rather than waiting for the mmpb. Do they not do this in the US?

  2. Now there are eBooks. And even with the increased price (which I think is the only part where complaints are legitimate), they still take away quite a bit from the hardback sales. A publisher is not going to do this. That's their bread and butter.

    But they do already. tWok had a simultaneous HB, eBook release. The only reason ToM didn't from what we know is because Harriett is an old fuddy duddy and doesn't like eBooks.

    I don't support the one star reviews but it is a way of making people and publishers aware that you're not happy.

  3. Posting a one star review for a book purely on the basis that the eBook comes out later than the original is deplorable. The quality of a book shouldn't be dictated by the scheduling decisions of the publisher.
    My only beef with eBooks is that the price tends to be higher (I was looking at The Balverine Order and the eBook is about $2 more than the paperback)but I'm definitely leaning more towards digital books for space reasons.

  4. @Elfy - Yeah, I don't really pay attention to them because of the fact that they're so untrustworthy, but I know a lot of people do trust them because they don't know that awesome book blogs exist. :)

    Sometimes we have trade paperbacks come out before the mmpb, but not always. Sometimes it's the trade paperback that comes out instead of a hardback.

    @Chris - Yeah, but look at the difference. Beginning of a series where you want to get people started/hooked asap as opposed to WoT where it's guaranteed to be a #1 bestseller and you can cash in big time.

    @Jamie - Completely agreed and I know I'll be getting into eBooks soon enough. I do enough reading on the bus/traveling that they seem like the smart decision.

  5. I've heard of this happening before, though not in relation to the Towers of Midnight, and I think its terrible. I no longer read Amazon reviews because they are just not reliable.

  6. I find the whole eBook business deplorable. I mean, sure you can fit a greater number of books in a much smaller amount of space, but the whole point of literature is for it to be treasured and treated with respect so that the book can survive the ages, carrying with it, its story. Also, it takes away the opportunity to experience that new book smell. People these days are too caught up in the present and want everything to happen within that frame of the now.

  7. @Simcha - I'm the same way, I don't trust the Amazon reviews anyway because of things like this, so I guess it's not that big of a deal. Plus, there's always those random books that have only 5 star reviews. That's not suspect at all. :)

    @Spencer - Well said, plus how are you supposed to lend a book to someone so they can try out a new author, maybe become a fan. No lending's going on with eBooks because of the whole DRM protection. I understand not wanting them to be pirated throughout the internet, but what about lending...what about lending. :)

  8. how about those us deployed to locations far across the globe with no immediate access to book stores. For this reason I purchased an Ereader, because none of the major book stores or even online stores will ship overseas to APO addresses. There are those of us who would pay the hardback price for the ebook itself. I started the series on the third book and I'm really dissapointed to not be able to read it. Yea I could have someone else buy it and ship it out but now i've paid 30$ for the book.

  9. Talking about a discount price for an ebook is hokum. An ebook is almost pure profit past the normal overhead of proofreading, typeset....etc point is there is no shipping, paper or middlemen to contend with. The product is eco friendly and yes fans like me will gladly pay a premium for a new release as opposed to waiting till... what February? I would have bought it but now I just go to my local Borders and get a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the book there. Publishers need to sit up and take notice, as deplorable as giving the book a poor rating is (and undeserved) the only voice of protest is the forum avaliable is the review. Understandibly if I am unable to review it in the format I now enjoy (and was inudated with mass marketing) i beleive that I would review it the same. The world is changing to fight that which is good to continue in an obsolete format is absurd. Just think, a book may never be out of print again because of this technology. If you think I'm off track there, just try to get a Frank Herbert book that is not Dune related.

  10. @Anon #1 - But if you've been waiting this long, why not a bit longer. Probably won't hurt too much. :)

    @Anon #2 - For ebooks (and anything with value) you have to look at more than costs. It is valuable to people who find reading on an eReader to be beneficial and that's why they'll put up with the DRM problems, etc. I say quit reading the stories, don't abuse a system for rating how good a book is.


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