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Staggered Digital Book Release Leads to Kindle Owner Uprising

The Amazon Kindle has been out for a while now, but despite positive reviews from people who own one, I still haven’t taken the plunge myself. While I recognize the advantages of being able to carry dozens of books in one device, I’m also not a fan of a bunch of the Kindle’s other features (e.g. prohibitively high price, DRM books, and just the physical experience of holding one compared to holding a book).

But say what you will about Amazon’s Kindle: it definitely has its share of devoted fans. I was reading about Mark Halperin’s damning new book, Game Change, today over at Politico. New York magazine also published a pretty damning excerpt recently, chronicling the John Edwards campaign. While the book seems gossipy/trashy, it also seems like a gripping read for anyone interested in political theater.

I went over to Amazon to check out some of the reviews and was mildly surprised to find that they gravitated to either 1-star reviews of 5-star reviews. But the reasoning for the 1-star reviews is what really got me:

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Game Change’s publishers are using a staggered release method, whereby the hardcover book is available now but the Kindle version won’t be available until February 23rd. Kindle users, accustomed to getting their books instantly, were none too happy with this development.

According to one reviewer, “Gotta say, I’m joining the growing chorus. Not going to read this until its on Kindle. Don’t care if its old news by then, Come one, folks! Wireless reading formatn is NOT going away! Can we all just agree that books need to be put into this format at the time of publishing?? Please?” Another reviewer titled: “DO NOT BUY WHEN PUBLISHED – SHOW THE PUBLISHER,” reads “Since one of the reasons we all bought Kindles was to read the most recent best sellers, please DO NOT BUY Game Change and show the publisher that delaying the kindle version of this book until February 23rd will not be tolerated. IF this practice continues, this will hurt all the Kindle owners who have to wait 4-8 weeks for the book. IF you have to wait that period of time, why have a Kindle?”

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Are these really reviews of the product? Or reviews of what the product should be? Or negative reviews left on one product due to the fact that an entirely different product (The Kindle version of the book) doesn’t yet exist? It will be interesting to see how Amazon deals with this development, as it recalls the Amazon/Spore incident in fall 2008. Amazon has shown itself very willing in the past to take down reviews that have no bearing on the actual item of sale.

Interestingly, I also found some backlash to the backlash from Kindle Owners.

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“When Jeff Bezos said that books were analog media that would soon be discarded, well, that was pretty disgusting as well. The man made a fortune selling books and destroying book stores, but now he wants to destroy books.” The Kindle continues to inspires lovers and haters a like. I’ll be watching the reviews page (and you can too) for further developments, as the debate promises to play out in an engaging manner.

All types of content-creators are playing with staggered release windows these days. Just last week we heard that some titles won’t appear on Netflix until 28-days after they’ve been on sale. Two things seem clear to me: 1) When you artificially create these types of windows, you may or may not increase the possibility of earning more revenue by engineering scarcity of content, and 2) You do so at your own peril. Consumers want their content available, and they want it now. When it’s denied them, they tend to get really, really upset. Good luck with that.