Revenge of the digerati

Readers angry about e-book delays push down Amazon ratings is a vital sales channel for publishers, and its customer reviews are a key aspect of that. So when prospective buyers—upset that they cannot buy e-book versions of a new release as quickly as hardcover versions are offered—pepper the site with negative reviews, publishers take notice. Case in point: the much buzzed-about new book Game Change, which spills secrets about the 2008 presidential election. The book has been deluged with one-star, negative reviews from people who are protesting HarperCollins’ decision to delay the Kindle version to Feb. 23. Those one-star reviews have contributed to a ho-hum average customer review rating of 2.5 stars (out of 5). “This is time-sensitive material. No one is going to care in 6 weeks when it is released for the Kindle. People want it now. The publisher is shooting themselves in the foot,” runs one review. “ 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,” added another. Some in the publishing industry fear that Amazon’s standard $9.99 (or lower) for new release books on Kindle will create a “sticky” price in consumers’ minds, dragging down the overall perceived value of books. Considering how popular customer reviews are as a guide when consumers are looking for things on Amazon, publishers may be facing yet another new problem: prospective buyers who may not notice that it’s a Kindle protest, not a title’s contents, that is dragging down its ratings.