Question Time – Right or Wrong?

a memory of lightI read a little article over on Galleycat that got me thinking about readers rights vs. sour grapes. Apparently, the final book in the late Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series debuted on the NYT Bestsellers list at number one this week. While that is to be expected, what surprised me was that it was in spite of an online “fan” campaign to deluge Amazon with a flurry of one-star reviews – because the book will not be released in e-format until April. Now, what this means is that many (but not all) of those who voted one star are in fact rating an item that they have not as yet read based solely on formatting, not on content. Just to be nosy, I did the math and figured out that on Amazon the 1 star ratings are right now running at almost 38% – and only 1% over at Goodreads. Author Brandon Sanderson said…

         This is not my decision or Tor’s decision, but Harriet’s. She is uncomfortable with ebooks. Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn’t about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband’s legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the Wheel of Time from hitting number one on either list. (Many of the bestseller lists are still handling ebooks in somewhat awkward ways.)

As the last books have all hit number one, she doesn’t want to risk one of these not hitting number one, and therefore ending the series on a down note. (Even though each Wheel of Time book has sold more than its predecessor, including the ones I have worked on.) I personally feel her worries are unfounded, and have explained that to her, but it is not my choice and I respect her reasoning for the decision. She is just trying to safeguard Robert Jordan’s legacy, and feels this is a very important way she needs to do so. After talking about the issue, we were able to move the ebook up from the originally planned one-year delay to instead come out this spring.

What do you think? Is it a legitimate way for a reader to make their displeasure known, or does it come off more as sour grapes about not getting their way?  I have been reading a few of the comments connected to the 1-star reviews, and some of them get downright insulting, called Robert Jordan’s widow Harriet greedy, ignorant, and guilty of diminishing her husband’s legacy. Those are some harsh words, and the rabid response by some readers (many of whom had followed the series right from its beginning 20 years ago), made me a bit uncomfortable.  I have made my position on e-books more than painfully clear, but I have never went on a rampage against an author or a publisher because a story from a favorite series was only released in e-format (and I don’t mean a delay, I mean no print version at all). That said, I would be disappointed if for whatever reason authors like Nalini Singh or Kresley Cole were to delay their print releases in favor of an earlier e-release date. Disappointed, but not to the point of dropping the series or insulting the author.  But on the other hand (minus the personal attacks), how else does a reader let their feelings be known if not through reviews?

So,where do you stand on negative campaigning against books based on formatting issues rather than content? Is it a reader’s right to voice their opinion on the book as a whole, or is there a better way to get the point across.

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15 thoughts on “Question Time – Right or Wrong?

  1. I agree with what they are complaining about (the author/widow explanation is about money, the rest is BS) BUT as a reviewer I always object to ANYTHING being used to rate a book other than the writing/story of the book itself. You have other problems then write Amazon or the publisher but rating a novel on ANYTHING other than the work itself is stupid and corrupts the system. I hate it when I see people downgrading reviews because they thought the price was too high (see that a lot)

  2. I’m with Doug! Flood the publisher and/or author with emails, but do not reflect negatively on something you haven’t read yet. I’m a reviewer as well, and it irritates me to no end when readers do things like that. I actually saw one review where the reviewer gave it one star because it took too long, in their opinion, for the book to come out! REALLY?!?!?!?!

  3. That kind of issue should be sent in emails to the publishers and the author. In my mind reviews are for the content of the book. If you want to add a sub note about the format you read great, but giving a low rating because of the format is ridiculous. I can see it if you’re reviewing a blueray movie, where the movie looks bad and it clearly wasn’t meant to be seen in Blueray.

    Harriet decision is sweet, and it bothers me that readers of WoT still try and personally attack her. I don’t buy hardbacks ever, so sometimes I have to wait a year or two to simply get the paperback release. However, I’ve never dropped a series or felt enraged about it. It’s a fact of life, the world isn’t ending. Plus, we have to remember ebooks are new and it is possible that it might reflect badly on the ranking (though this series is so popular I really doubt that). Harriet is also pre-ebook publishing, it’s probably a bit scary and daunting.

    Sorry, I felt ranty on the subject. Some of the students at college were debating about it and guess which side they were on . . .

    • “Harriet is also pre-ebook publishing” – I bought the first book of WoT from the Science Fiction Book Club when it was first released so I predate ebooks considerably but I have made the conversion pretty well :) Forgive me if I still think it sounds like its about the perceived amount of money.

  4. Off topic money question:
    Right now WoT is selling on amazon for 19.24 hardback. Is the suthir/eidie concern that e formats bring in a lower price or is it a broader concern similar to the music industry with file sharing and overall lowering total sales? Anybody know or have an opinion?

    • Almost all e-books are not loanable, but all hardback books are. I know that there are ways around the blocks, but the average person probably isn’t interested in that. So, if they only release a hardback issue are they making more money on the deal? I’m not sure that is the case. More and more people are reading the books from the library, and waiting to purchase the e-copy or the paperback.

  5. As a person that also pre-dates e-books, I’ve jumped on the e-book bandwagon from the very beginning. I like the convenience. I don’t really think that Jordan’s wife is that naïve she has to know the popularity of the series. So that leads me to one of two conclusions, either she got some really bad advice on the Hardcover vs. e-book exposure, or they are counting on readers to buy the Hardcover book in lieu of the e-book because it is going to be delayed. I tend to think the later. If I read a book and really don’t like it I will give it a rating that I think is fair and substantiate my rating with a review. I don’t think that a book should ever be reviewed strictly on the publication schedule. There are many top rated best sellers that have simultaneous releases and they top the charts consistently. I think that the best solution is to e-mail the publishing house, and forgo the 1* ratings. Your letters could possibly affect future publications, and perhaps encourage future publishing houses to nix delays.

  6. Ah yes, the anonymous internet commentor’s sense of entitlement raises its ugly head again!! Soooo many things to rant about here.

    Coming from India, I JUMPED onto the ebook wagon before you could say, well, ebook wagon. Most of the books that I usually read never even get published in India, the market being so tiny so as to not count, I guess. Ebooks made all such books suddenly not just available but just an instant’s click away.

    You’d think that I’d be on the side of the 1-stars then, but since I’ve had to live without any way of getting the kind of books I love, this convenience has made me even more appreciative of authors and their magic. If the alternative is going without, I will absolutely wait for however long as it takes.

    This 1-star issue comes from a complete lack of knowledge of what it feels to go without. The sense of entitlement, if you will. No doubt they are willing to buy a book, but they will buy a book on their terms not the publishing house and certainly not the author’s terms.

    I would even go so far as to say that these people cannot possibly be true fans of this series! Can anyone who loves Harry Potter ever imagine trashing it? If you are a true fan, the one thing you will never do is trash a series book, especially one you have waited for, for so many years, especially the series freakin’ finale book!!! How can anyone call themselves a fan when they behave in such an incredibly childish manner without any forethought whatsoever. They are all bullies, internet bullies. Right there is a prime example of the ugly side of the internet and I am sorry to see so-called intelligent people behave this way.

    • You are so right and appreciative! People are so used to instant gratification, the forget that other people have rights also!

  7. I am glad that I wasn’t alone in thinking that this was the wrong way to go. To be honest, some sounded like spoiled children not getting immediate gratification, which made the ones that were just genuinely disappointed look bad, too. I have never been a fan of those who drop one star because of things like publication delays, price, or format, but I thought that the personal attacks were going way too far.

  8. I’m in the camp that this is sour grapes. I think book reviews should be just that- a review about the book. I wouldn’t have an issue with complaining to the publisher (and maybe the author) about release date, price, format,etc. Verbally attacking someone? That’s just mean (and so many other things).

  9. There is so much negativity that I hate adding more. I think it would have been more productive to have a campaign to convince her to do the e-publishing and maybe have her push to include e- sales as part of the total count for the book publishing. (Remember Betty White on Saturday Night Live?)

    Giving a book a low rating because of someone else’s rightful decision is not only mis-guided but rude and petty! – Remember, I may not agree with your opinion but I will defend your right to have that opinion – however wrong it may be! That’s what our rights stand on.

    She has every right to worry about her husband’s legacy and if that is how she chooses to uphold it – I don’t have anything to say negatively. And yes, I do think she is wrong. I’m an older reader and with print size and space considerations, I read only e-books – they are the best way for older readers to still enjoy print books. Maybe someone should have explained all that to Mrs. Jordan in an open campaign that would be productive for all.

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