I 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.