An interesting little battle has erupted on Amazon over the reviews Michael Lewis‘ new book, “The Big Short,” is getting there. When people review the actual book, they give the work high marks (I’m reading it this week, and I have to agree — it’s fascinating and maddening, and Lewis’ prose is as sharp and elegant as ever).
But many 1-star reviews have been posted by people complaining because the book isn’t available for the Kindle.
Obviously, this isn’t Lewis’ fault, but his rating is collateral damage. And in a world of apomediation, a 3-star average hurts.
In fact, one could say the reviews are selling Lewis short.
The controversy has spilled out into the blogosphere and splashed out onto Amazon’s customer discussion pages. It shows how passionate people can be about their e-books, and how customers can use tools in unanticipated ways to attack policies and practices they dislike.
In this case, it appears to be the practice of delaying e-book releases until hardcover sales have had enough time to drive traditional revenue channels — probably for a spreadsheet that was created before the Kindle’s first anniversary.
Over at TechCrunch, in a post entitled, “Amazon: You Need to Change Your Idiotic Customer Reviews Policy Right Now,” Paul Carr writes:
I’ve written before about the flawed thinking of publishers who delay Kindle releases to protect hardback sales. It’s an idiotic move but it’s one that many publishers feel forced into due to Amazon’s policy of charging $9.99 for most popular Kindle titles. It’s loss-leader pricing for Amazon and publishers still get their full due, but the low digital price point discourages hardback sales which results – in the short term at least – in a drop in overall revenues.
However, while Carr thinks the customers posting 1-star reviews to complain are misguided, the fact is that they have little alternative. Amazon does have a link for potential purchasers to request that the publisher to make the Kindle version available, but when you’ve sunk a couple hundred dollars into an e-reader and an author in the sweet-spot for many e-reader early adopters (huge fan base, hot current topic, strong book tour on cool shows, etc.), it’s understandable that you want a megaphone for your heartfelt kvetching.
Customers have spent hundreds of dollars pursuing technological improvements to their time-management, information consumption, and entertainment lifestyles. When publishers or content providers of any type play games with them, there will be consequences. Technologies will be warped and abused. It’s hard to take sides in this — everyone’s got mud on them — but ultimately, if Lewis and his publisher want to make amends with people with open wallets, I’d suggest they suck it up and get that .mobi file to Amazon PDQ.
It would be a 5-star response.