Home » Ebooks, Fantasy/SciFi » “A Memory of Light” Gets One-Star Reviews Over eBook Delay

“A Memory of Light” Gets One-Star Reviews Over eBook Delay

10 January 2013

From GalleyCat:

Tor Books released A Memory of Light as a $34.99 hardcover this week, the final book in epic fantasy Wheel of Time series created by the late Robert Jordan.

The digital book will not be released until April 9th, generating a slew of angry one-star reviews on Amazon–most by people who had not read the book.

As of this writing, the book had 119 one-star reviews, most of them from readers upset about the lack of a digital book. Some of these readers threatened to seek out pirated digital editions of the book.

. . . .

[Author Brandon Sanderson explains:] This is not my decision or Tor’s decision, but Harriet’s [Jordan's widow]. 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.

Link to the rest at GalleyCat

Below is Amazon’s summary of reviews for the book as of 5:30 EST on Thursday. Click HERE to see the current Amazon review status for the book.

Light

Ebooks, Fantasy/SciFi

114 Comments to ““A Memory of Light” Gets One-Star Reviews Over eBook Delay”

  1. Gee, that’s unfortunate that so many readers would trash the book itself because there is no digital version.

  2. But wait! Arent’t Amazon reviews supposed to be about the book? Doesn’t Amazon sweep away ugly reviews that violate policies, even if they are from legitimate reviewers? Isn’t using the Amazon review tools to express a protest against format and the publisher some sort of review policy violation?

    Frankly, the folks expressing their outrage at the publisher by using this method are idiots. I hope Amazon sweeps this crap out with the rest of the garbage.

  3. Many of the 5-star reviews, at least the early ones, are equally useless when it comes to reviewing the book. There are many of these types of reviews

    http://www.amazon.com/review/RECM1TQXQL0A7/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0765325950&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful

    “I’ve yet to read the novel, but this is a 5 star review to help balance the 1 star reviews from the self-entitled manchildren who don’t have a modicum of patience and can’t respect the wishes of the widow of the late Robert Jordan.”

  4. “I’d say its a grey area. Depending interpretation it could fall into off-topic or it could fall into experience with features of the product (a big heavy book vs digital file).”

    Did these people buy the big heavy book and found they were unpleasant to hold?

    I understand certain people are not in control of their emotions and must vent for the world to enjoy, but can we agree that reviews of books should be about the content of the book? Otherwise the point of having a review system collapses. If we don’t care, proceed apace, ye drunk trolls.

    • My point was that while promotional reviews are explicitly forbidden, the guidelines do not directly address discussion of format in reviews. Go ahead and advocate that Amazon clarify their guidelines but I think “drunken troll” is excessive. Besides these one star review campaigns are usually quickly buried under the influx of positive reviews by fans once these stories hit the news. It is a purely symbolic gesture of protest.

      • No, it’s not excessive to designate them as drunk trolls since psychological studies of the brains of people leaving these kinds of reviews shows they have the same brain chemistry and inhibition levels as those who are drunk.

        • Insulting potential customers with legitimate complaints who merely express them badly is never productive.

          ETA: If you are referring to the study I think you are it involved self-identified trolls who admitted they were stirring up controversy only for their own amusement, not people who felt they had a real cause.

          • I think some may disagree that this is a “legitimate complaint.” If someone paid for the book and it was damaged upon delivery, that’s a legitimate complaint. This is iffy, to say the least.

            Oh, no, you can’t get a book in your chosen format right away! Obviously, the best thing to do is take it out on the one person who has no control over it (but is also the one who can be hurt the most). Boo-freakin’-hoo.

            • I think part of this is that you perceive the reviews as only affecting Sanderson. These reviewers view this as a way to address everyone involved. A number of these reviews speak to the correct individual to blame. Some of the reviews are written as letters to Harriet.

              Secondly, I think both you and Barbara are missing my point. I am not suggesting that this is the right way to handle the problem. I am, however, suggesting that using abusive language toward readers is unproductive. Trolling is in the eye of the beholder. Many of those individuals who left one star reviews would probably apply the term to Barbara for her use of insulting terms.

              ETA: Reading more of the one star reviews a lot of them did purchase the physical copy and are comparing what was apparently a very poor quality printing to the experience they usually have with their ebooks.

              • I couldn’t care less if some of the “What, no ebook???” reviews are pointed at the estate, because the reviews themselves only affect Sanderson and his sales. It took me a grand total of 10 seconds to find the contact info for Robert Jordan’s estate. Just because the reviewers believe that they’re righteous doesn’t give them a pass for boorish behavior.

                • Again you see it as only Sanderson’s sales. Don’t Tor and the estate loose money over lost sales. I have no idea what the royalty split is in this case but I imagine Sanderson makes less off the sales than either of those organizations.

                  • Who ultimately gets hurt more by low sales on one book: the publisher or the author?

                    But, again, that’s not even relevant. The contact info for both Tor and RJ’s estate is easy to find. I’m not going to give anyone points because they feel they have a gripe, and take it out on the one person who can do nothing about it, instead of taking a minute to contact the people who actually made the decision.

                    It’s like going into an Italian restaurant on Tuesday and yelling at the chef because you can’t get the Friday veal special.

                    • The biggest problem is that you seem to think that reviews can only reflect the writing and not the complete product. What if the problem was editing mistakes that were made after the last time the author saw the manuscript? Would you view those as legitimate aspects to review? If so why not comments on the quality of the printing of a physical book? If I wanted to judge Sanderson’s writing I would look at books he was the sole author of not something like this. If publishers will judge him on this book and not things that are completely his work that is a problem with them not with the readers.

                      Also again you are assuming yelling. That is not the tone of the vast majority of the reviews I read. If you walked into the restaurant and calmly told the waiter that you are disappointed that the Friday special is completely unavailable the rest of the week what is wrong with that?

                    • I give up.

                • Yeah, Sanderson suffers most, in all probability. No, it’s not his fault.

                  Two points:

                  1) Most readers know nothing about publishing, and they think traditionally published authors have much more control than they really do. They routinely blame authors for publishers’ screwups.

                  2) The physical quality of media is part of the customer’s experience. Nothing prevents customers from being happy with content but unhappy with the way the maker presents that content. Claiming that customers have no right to comment on that presentation is questionable.

                  I refused to buy a set of Blu-ray disks because reviews told me that the makers had, bizarrely, chopped the sides off the broadcast HD images. This is not the fault of the cameramen, the writer of the show, the narrator, or the producer of the show. It still affected previous purchasers’ experience, and they said so.

                  Traditional publishing has put out some sloppily formatted ebooks. Buyers have commented on it, and downgraded the books. It’s not the authors’ fault. But it’s material to buyers’ experience.

                  There are people who can’t comfortably read physical books, or can’t read them at all. Making them wait months longer obviously affects their reading experience.

                  Businesses have the right to put their own bottom line first. They have the right to make decisions that will annoy some of their customers.

                  Their customers have the right to criticize them for it.

                  Mrs. Jordan apparently made a business decision to put bestseller ranking (and perhaps higher sales and revenue) over the interests of some readers. Maybe it’s good judgment. It is certainly her right.

                  It is also the readers’ right to dislike a business decision that adversely affects their reading experience.

                  Expecting them not to dislike it vocally in Amazon reviews is not good sense.

                  • The purpose of a book review is… to review the book. Complaining about the lack of an ebook has nothing to do with the book as a book. Those reviews aren’t reviews at all, but complaints being sent to the wrong channel.

                    • >The purpose of a book review is… to review the book.
                      hmmmm…

                      so I guess the question then is what do reviews do for us as a community? Is it to simply sell more books? Is it to expose new works that may be missed in the sea of material coming out monthly? Or is there something else at work in the writing of reviews? And, to me, more importantly, do Web Page Comments really constitute a ‘review?’

                      Do all reviews have a ‘selfish’ motive or are their ‘altruistic’ reviews?

                      I find this a much more interesting problem…

              • Since I am rapidly approaching “Get off my lawn” age, I will note that I can remember when if you shelled out big bucks for a heavy hardback, once could expect a book that would last many rereads. Now, the spines of newly published heavy books frequently threaten to come apart after only one or two reads, especially if one shares it with a person who has never learned the use of a bookmark. And the paper quality feels like the same that Book of the Month used to use.

                • I actually read over a hundred of these reviews myself rather than just relying on what the news article sited. The quality of the hardback printing (blotchy printing, poor paper quality, broken spines, etc) comes up almost as much as the lack of the ebook. The actual text of the reviews often says something that the story was lacking but it was Jordan’s fault for letting the plot get away form him and Sanderson did the best job possible with trying to fix it. So they would give it a 3.5 for the story but that with the horrible quality of the printing and the lack of the ebook they feel they have to drop the review to one star.

                  • Ah! That’s important information to have. I should say that those reviews — the ones complaining about the poor printing and binding as well as the lack of an ebook — are fully justified, if the physical product is as bad as they say.

            • OK. Different study than the one I was thinking of. I don’t see a link to the original study to determine their definition of troll. The only criteria they mention is anonymity which certainly does not apply since they specifically propose registration as a remedy and I believe you have to be registered and logged in to post reviews on Amazon. The effect they mention vitriolic language does not apply to the vast majority of the reviews I am looking at which use such terms as sad, disappointed and unhappy.

    • Many products sold on Amazon have 1-star reviews warning other buyers to beware. Amazon has never had a policy to remove these reviews as they facilitate satisfactory buying experiences. i.e. warning you to not buy stuff you won’t like.

      • The difference being, the people warning you not to buy a product have actually USED said product. They speak from experience, and are therefore qualified to pass judgement upon the product. If you haven’t sampled the product, you have no idea how good or bad the product is. That’s why reviews are important. People who game the system in order to protest a bad business practice are misguided, and need to stop.

        The equivalent we’re seeing with “A Memory of Light” would be, “I haven’t read the book. I haven’t seen the book. For all I know this book has 908 pages of ‘All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy’ written on them. But somehow I’m still qualified to comment on the content of the book not because I’ve read it, but because I’m unhappy with the inner workings of the publishing industry.”

        • I was thinking more of the “Made with child slave labor” or “you don’t want BrandY , try BrandX” type of reviews, many of which are extremely helpful. Recently, one of these 1-star “didn’t use it but here is my opinion anyway” lead me to buy my new favorite shoes and I couldn’t be happier with that purchase.

  5. At least you don’t have to wait two years, like those of us who read paperbacks.

  6. It’s never a smart decision to delay or stagger any format. I can’t say I’m surprised by the outrage.

    • Sure, but be outraged at the publisher (or, in this case, the estate), not the current author who has zero control over it.

      • The problem is many people feel contacting the publisher through traditional means (by letter or e-mail) will either be completely ignored or will result in a canned response.

        Like it or not leaving a 1 star review in something tangible, a public forum to announce their displeasure.

        As I said I don’t agree with the process but I understand it. At least in this case I doubt it has any real impact on the sales. I highly doubt anyone who has read the series up to the final book will be swayed from finishing it by a low star rating.

        • Neither approach will have any effect whatsoever on the *current* situation.

          However, either might influence the publisher not to *do* things like that in the future, and I think that the one-star blitz is far more likely to do that than letters to the publisher. Letters to the publisher reach no one else. One-star blitzes reach *every single potential customer of the publisher.*

    • It’s called sliding down the demand curve. First sell to all the people who will pay X. Then sell to those who will pay X-Y. Then sell to those who will pay X-Y-Z.

      It maximizes revenue.

      • In this case it’s more about designing a bestseller, which the estate has the right to do, just as people have the right to complain about it.

        • ‘To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.’ — G. K. Chesterton

          In this case, I should incline to say that both sides have a right, but the people making the complaints are right and Jordan’s widow isn’t.

          • Under what standard is Jordan’s widow wrong? What is she wrong about? What are the complainers right about? Does Jordan’s widow have some obligation to anyone?

            • She should be more worried about pleasing the longstanding fans and readers who have been following this series, likely for decades, than making bestseller lists.

              Authors and publishers should ALWAYS place the readers first, IMHO, but ESPECIALLY when this is the 14th (?) book in a series. The only people likely to buy it have already been supporting them financially for a long time and deserve respect.

            • She is making the right choice, for her. This is the last Wheel of Time book. Ensuring NYT Bestseller status is important to her and her husbands legacy.

              This is not about revenues, the difference is minimal (according to Mr. Sanderson). This is about constricting the supply chain so that pent up demand kicks the book to #1.

              • What’s really sad to me though is that somehow losing Hardcover sales to the e-book version could effect the placement of the book on the bestseller list at all.

                A sale is a sale.

              • She thinks that it will ensure NYT Bestseller status. I rather suspect that while still hitting the #1 Bestseller status I think that this choice will cause enough bad publicity that hardcover sales will be lower than they would have been.

                • You may be correct.

                  #2 English language, #1 Hardcover last 30 days, #1 Fantasy.

                  Or maybe not.

                  • Please note I said I still thought it would hit #1. Too many fans have been waiting 20 years for the book for it to be otherwise. I just think she is ultimately hurting herself financially and the very thing she is trying to protect, Jordan’s legacy, by alienating a large portion of the fanbase who are now swearing to get the book from the library and then buy a used paperback to complete their collection.

                    • Remember that windowing works. AMOL will hit #1 when the eBook comes out, and again when the paperback comes out. Also, being fans, the very small but very loud minority that’s 1-staring will buy the AMOL when it comes out in eBook and many would have already bought the hardcover,

      • Well, it is believed to maximize revenue. Way back in the 1950s, Ian Ballantine showed that this is not necessarily true in publishing. Ballantine Books did a major experiment with simultaneous hard & softcover publication of select titles. They found that the sort of people who prefer hardbacks were perfectly willing to pay (at that time) three dollars or so for a hardcover, even when the paperback was on sale at every newsstand for 35 cents. Both editions had perfectly acceptable sales compared to the titles that were released on the normal, staggered schedule.

        Unfortunately, Ballantine didn’t get to follow up on this experiment. His distributors didn’t like it — perhaps because other publishers were complaining about ‘unfair’ competition; perhaps because they just didn’t like any change in their business model. So they forced him to go back to the old model.

        My principal source for this information is Frederik Pohl, who is still living and could probably tell you more if asked politely.

        • How come the publishers ignored this and have continued to lag paperbacks after hardcover? Perhaps they have their own experience on which they base their beliefs??

          • As I mentioned, he distributors wouldn’t allow Ballantine to turn the experiment into a regular practice. At that time it was the distributors who held the hammer in publishing, especially in mass-market, and they threatened not to distribute Ballantine’s books to retailers if he insisted on simultaneously publishing hard and softcover editions.

            As Pohl has said, the heads of the distribution companies at that time tended to be men who learnt their trade in the days when the standard trick for increasing a newspaper’s circulation was to send out goons and tip over the competition’s delivery trucks. When they told you not to distribute certain materials or not to distribute them in a certain way, you listened.

            Perhaps they have their own experience on which they base their beliefs??

            But they haven’t. From that day to this, as far as I have ever heard, nobody has ever tried the experiment again. For the most part, they simply have no way of knowing whether the current way of scheduling releases is better or worse than any other, because they haven’t tried the others.

  7. 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.

    What an unbelievably petty and self-serving motive. If Robert Jordan has no better legacy than the number of times his books hit #1 on the bestseller lists, he might as well have been a tuna fisherman.

    When a book survives long after its author’s death and continues to be widely read, nobody asks what its position on the Times list was back in the day. It’s a commonplace, for instance, that Moby-Dick sold poorly on its initial release in 1851, and a stock joke among literary critics to remind people of all the bestsellers from that year that are now utterly forgotten.

    If Robert Jordan does turn out to leave an enduring legacy — a proposition concerning which I have my doubts — it won’t make the slightest difference if one of his books failed to hit #1.

    • Exactly, this protest is a bit petty, but the thing they are protesting is just at least as stupid and petty.

    • I thought the purpose of a book is to be read. It really should not matter what format. And any author (in this case, author’s estate) that’s more concerned about a bestseller list than getting the book into as many hands as possible as soon as possible, regardless of format, will have a lot of unhappy readers.

      Are these reviews unjustified? Yes. But this is what comes of leaving a great many of your readers out in the cold by denying them the format they prefer to read. And yes, I know that they will get the digital format eventually. But for those who are dying to read the last installment, April seems very far off.

    • Grief causes people to do odd things.

  8. All of the Wheel of Time books have been like this. It’s not just the last one. This one actually has a shorter wait at 3 months for the ebook than the last couple, which were 6 months to a year. I didn’t realize it was Harriet’s decision, but this is nothing new.

    Still, I think if you review a book, review the book.

  9. I think this is interesting. It says that readers view Amazon reviews as the best method of sending their feedback to a publisher. Or perhaps it says that readers have no real concept of who the publisher is, what they know is the author and the vendor. So whatever mistakes a publisher makes, the readers will probably take it out on the author and/or vendor. (Another good reason to self publish?) Either way, it says that readers are mad and they think the best way to express their dissatisfaction is through the review section.

    • I think it is definitely a case where readers (although it happens a lot on video games too) feel that the amazon review system is the best outlet to let their feelings be known. They can actually see the effect of giving the book a single star.

      The alternative of writing a letter to the publisher and *maybe* getting some canned response back feels completely unsatisfying by comparison.

      I don’t agree with the practice but I understand why so many seem to embrace it.

      • It can be effective as well. I believe the DRM scheme for the game Spore was adjusted partially in response to a similar campaign, although it was too little too late to win over a thoroughly disgusted gaming community.

        If this practice remains the most effective way of customers getting a response from publishers it will end up continuing. Better legitimate channels for customer feedback would probably alleviate this kind of thing.

  10. Personally I’m flabbergasted by the price tag.

  11. Well…..I know this might be an unpopular reaction, but I have two thoughts.

    First – I should say I’m not that worried about damage to the sale of the book due to reviews. That book sold itself before it was written.

    Also, apropos to nothing, I also want to add that I think Sanderson is an amazing writer. I just read his Allomancy novels, and a few weeks later I am still staring, mouth agape, simply in awe at his plotting. Wow.

    So, my points:

    a. Nothing, not anything, is going to stop people from leaving these reviews. Not a thing. Nothing. Nada. Not going to happen, those reviews they are a’coming.

    b. Good. Again, I know may not be a popular opinion, but I like that readership is standing up for itself. One of the things that forced Publishers a few years ago into releasing e-books as the same time as the hardcover (remember when they were delaying it) was this type of thing.

    I’m sorry for Jordan’s widows’ loss, but I think her decision is misguided. Her husband’s legacy is not about hitting the bestseller lists. It is about giving the readers the conclusion to his Work. It is about giving his readership closure.

    But whether people agree with that or not, I will again say I have no problem with readers standing up for themselves.

    As for telling them to contact the widow directly, or write the publisher rather than posting it on a public, visible forum that has an world wide impact like Amazon reviews, I will refer you to point #1. Ain’t going to happen. They want visibility. This is the most effective channel to put on pressure for change.

    And, again, I say. Good. This is the market in action.

    I will also add – this points to another good reason to go indie. You’re not stuck with a Publisher’s format or pricing decisions.

    • I will also add – this points to another good reason to go indie. You’re not stuck with a Publisher’s format or pricing decisions.

      Well, yes, in general; but I doubt it would have helped in this case. Jordan’s widow would still have controlled the rights and called the shots, and if she really is the reason for the delay of the ebook, she’d probably have done that no matter who the publisher was.

      That’s assuming, of course, that Brandon Sanderson is telling the strict truth and not just trying to deflect blame from Tor. I have no reason to doubt him, but I must be mindful that I’ve only heard one side of the story.

      • I do find it funny that the self-published authors on this site, who normally condemn these kinds of tactics from traditional publishers as well as traditional publisher’s tendency to brush off criticism from their customers are now reacting emotionally and doing the same thing.

        • I don’t find it funny as much as I find it exasperating and inconsistent.

          • Well, I meant funny as in strange not as in hilarious. Customers are acting in concert to demand that the publishers move into the 21st century and suddenly it is a bad thing. Admittedly the customers are more focused on their interests, prompt delivery of a readable product, than the authors’ interests of better royalties and marketing, but isn’t that only natural.

            • I was thinking more along the lines of how authors are outraged when people on Goodreads gang up on individual authors for whatever reason — damned if I know, I don’t really pay attention — but when it comes to downrating a big-name published book over complaints of format (rather than the story itself) it’s suddenly “rah for market forces.” I can’t help but see a double standard there.

              I agree Jordan’s widow is choosing poorly. Only the other hand, I think using the Amazon rating system to review something other than the actual book isn’t much better than an author creating an anonymous account to give a negative view to a “competitor.” They’re free to do it, but it’s stupid.

              “It was a great story but YOU DIDN’T USE GARAMOND FONT SO ONE STAR.”

              “It was a great story but AUTHOR USES OXFORD COMMA SO ONE STAR.”

              “I haven’t read it but I HATE THE COLOR GREEN SO ONE STAR.”

              • I actually didn’t realize there were Goodreads groups doing this. This would explain a book I saw earlier tonight, however. It had a great average review level, but the most helpful reviews list was full of one-star reviews with the same complaint, word for word complaining of ‘short choppy sentences’.

    • b. Good. Again, I know may not be a popular opinion, but I like that readership is standing up for itself. One of the things that forced Publishers a few years ago into releasing e-books as the same time as the hardcover (remember when they were delaying it) was this type of thing.

      Exactly.

      I pity the publishers and estates. *sob* If only they could stop having to deal with us pesky authors and readers then the world with be theirs. Muahahahaha!

  12. So, aside from the point of view of readers, it makes me wonder about the bestseller lists and their divisions. First off, I will admit I totally ignore bestseller lists, and I really don’t understand them well.

    But, my question is, why do they divide them by hardback, paperback, and eformat anymore? Wouldn’t a bestselling book be a bestselling book by sales?

    • Oh heavens no, because then the list would be full of genre fiction, YA, and erotica, and we can’t have that! Luckily only ‘good’ books are published in hardcover (for the most part) and the listmakers can keep those nasty unwashed masses out of the equation…

      • Also, if we have a separate list for hardcovers, then we can limit our figures to the kind of nice people who run physical stores and get counted by Bookscan, and we can exclude those horrid creatures that run Amazon.

        It’s the same reason why we have a separate paperback list. Those grubby subway-riders who spend their pocket change on filthy little detective stories and romance novels can’t possibly be counted along with the nice people who buy Real Literature in expensive editions.

        • Don’t forget the New York Times removed the Harry Potter books from its bestseller list because it was taking up half the list, and they couldn’t sell ads to other publishers who weren’t on the list. I mean, uh, they wanted to give other writers a chance.

      • *sniffs shirt* I took a shower, I promise…

  13. I seem to remember a post about this. You know, the one saying that if you want your books to continue to live after you do…make sure that you leave good suggestions/instructions.

    DWS/KKR I believe. Probably graciously pointed out by PG.

    But it pointed out that whoever is left to maintain your estate or keep your legacy going had better have a good idea of how to. Including leaving general guidelines and suggestions.

    “She is uncomfortable with ebooks” <– That appears to be doing damage to his legacy, rather than bolstering it.
    Though I'd like to point out that I can't blame her. Has she ever been educated on formats, sales lists and the current methodologies of publishing? If not, then she is probably simply doing the best she can. Best we remember this…and behave as decent human beings.
    -Knave

  14. As to the issue being discussed above about whether or not these reviews follow the Amazon review policy, reading that policy leave me with the distinct impression that this is definitely a grey area. It may not be “off topic” at all.

    After all, look at this from Amazon’s perspective. As authors we view the “product” as the story within the pages. But the vendor is more likely to view the “product” as the pages themselves or whatever the format of the story is. These reviews ARE focusing on an aspect of the product, namely the fact that it is not the kind of product that some people wanted. In fact, they were expecting a certain type of product, but found that instead they were only offered a type of product they don’t want. And so they are complaining about it. Is that irrelevant to this product? I’m not sure it is.

    Right now everyone in the industry is paying attention to Amazon reviews for lots of reasons. So right now this is simply the very best way for readers to tell the industry how it feels about the product being offered. The readers finally have a good way to make their voices heard to the industry and they are taking it. (Do any of us really believe the publisher would pay attention to a letter?) I think, in general, that’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate for the author caught in the middle who didn’t have a say, but if that’s what it takes to bring about industry change then I say good.

    • Thank you, that is the point I was trying to make. I think you managed to express it much more clearly and concisely than I did though.

    • If I believed either publishers or rightsholders were likely to pay attention to letters, I’d think readers should complain that way, as Dan is saying.

      In fact, I believe writing letters is as likely to be effective as shouting complaints into the west end of Purgatory Chasm, using a novelty megaphone that makes one’s voice sound like Donald Duck’s. So I don’t fault readers complaining in public.

      • Do you think publishers are paying attention now?

        If the reviewers were complaining publicly on blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook … well, I’d still think the complaint is semi-lame, but I’d be okay with it. My issue is putting the author in the crosshairs by using the review system that exists to review the story, not a format on which the story doesn’t currently exist.

        Do I think this will hurt Sanderson? Not really. AMOL will thrive regardless. But a lesser-known writer? It could potentially affect his or her earnings and future popularity.

        • My issue is putting the author in the crosshairs by using the review system that exists to review the story, not a format on which the story doesn’t currently exist.

          The review system exists to review the product, not just the story. If people are complaining because the product is shoddily printed and bound, that’s fair game, even though it’s nothing to do with the writer. If they’re complaining because it’s only available in a format that they don’t like, that’s not so clear-cut; but I’d consider that a legitimate complaint about a product other than a book, and I see no reason for Amazon to disallow it in the book department.

          • “If people are complaining because the product is shoddily printed and bound, that’s fair game, even though it’s nothing to do with the writer.”

            I kind of agree, although I think the star rating should be reserved for the story, and the condition of the book mentioned in the review. I got a review for a novella of mine that said (paraphrasing): “Four stars. Really liked the book. Hated the default font.” That’s a fair review that represents the actual product.

            “If they’re complaining because it’s only available in a format that they don’t like, that’s not so clear-cut; but I’d consider that a legitimate complaint about a product … ”

            In those cases, the product they’re complaining about doesn’t exist. Might as well say, “One star, because it’s not available in Russian.” Or, “I don’t own this toaster, but I gave it one star because it’s not available in plaid.”

            I think people can get the message across in a review without completely skewing the perceived quality of the work and, in some cases, just being a jerk. I mean, the majority of those reviewers didn’t even read the book. They’re just complaining about not getting what they want, when they want it. I’d be irked, too, but I’d be a lot more fair to the writer.

            • I guess it is a matter of reasonable expectations. The one star review for not being available in Russian might be understandable on a Russian website where customers reasonably expect their products to be available in that language. Below you make a video game comparison, and I know I would be pretty ticked off if the hot new game I wanted to play was only coming out on the PS1. Right now I am in email contact with a small music publisher trying to negotiate getting some music I would like on MP3, fortunately for me my problem is with a small publisher who is responsive to customer emails. I guess I am just at the point where I think in 2013 customers have a reasonable expectation that media will be promptly available in digital form, Be it music, video or books.

        • Dunno. I’d probably pay some attention to a protest like that.

          It wouldn’t necessarily affect what kind of agreement I could come to with a bestseller’s heir. But it might affect what kind of agreement I tried to come to, thereafter. Three stars vs. four or five hurts on Amazon, as I understand it, and they lump reviews for different formats together.

          Stuff like Laura Resnick’s describing might give me pause about publishing anything for that revolting audience ever again. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here.

          I hope it does no serious damage to Mr. Sanderson’s career (and I doubt it will; most of those people will buy the ebook when they can).

          Honestly, he’s not the one whose career I worry about. I worry more about the newly-published good writers whose very earliest reviews include a one-star downgrade by a blockhead.

  15. At some point, I think I may look at the reviews for “Halo” and see if anyone gave it a 1-star review because it’s not available on PS3.

    • I would totally do that if I cared about playing Halo. Next time I go to the store and see a game I want to play only on X-Box, I will. :)

      • I doubt you’ll find it on Halo. A high percentage of those who are passionate about games own both the PS3 and the XBOX360. On the other hand, you just might find it on reviews of Nintendo franchises. When the Wii was the best selling system I repeatedly saw the statement that Nintendo should stop making hardware and become a software publisher for Microsoft and Sony.

    • You’re comparing apples and oranges.

  16. I am zero sympathy for Brandon Sanderson in this. He got a sweet writing gig that came with a known downside. Sanderson and Tor are milking the “Wheel of Time” franchise and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it would be disingenuous of them to pretend this reaction is unexpected. There are a lot of jerks on the internet and this stuff happens. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    [Because it doesn't go without saying, I will say that a lot of these one-star reviews are stupid and childish. I doubt they will hurt the sales of the book much, if at all. The book's getting free publicity from this little stuffstorm.]

  17. This is nothing new. It goes on all the time now. To give just one example:

    About a year ago, due to a retail mistake at Amazon, which B&N promptly emulated (or maybe it was the other way around; I don’t remember now), paperback copies of the then-new fantasy novel by Seanan Maguire were made available by these two retailers 2 weeks before the book’s release date, while the ebook remained unavailable until the actual release date.

    This was NOT a publisher decision, let alone an author decision. This was NOT planned or intentional. Amazon and/or B&N made a MISTAKE by selling the paperback 2 weeks before its release date. This can be a nuisance for the author and publisher, but it happens sometimes.

    HOWEVER, in this era of 24/7 worldwide connectivity… enraged one-star reviews and angry comments about the author and the publisher covered the Amazon page, spewing bile because the ebook edition was NOT being made available 2 weeks BEFORE ITS RELEASE DATE.

    More to the point, vicious comments about the author were spread around the internet, including many posts on her own blog calling her a bitch, a slut, a whore, etc. “Fans” of the author threatened her with violence and expressed wishes to see her raped and murdered. (All because–let’s review–her ebook was unavailable until its official release date while 2 major retailers mistakenly made the mmpb available 2 weeks early.) People emailed vicious insults and personal threats to the author.

    So this has nothing to do with Jordan, his widow, Tor, Sanderson, the price of the hc edition ($35??!!), ebooks, etc. Those are just the particulars of this one incident in a growing sea of similar incidents.

    This is about the internet being full of raving, filth-spewing lunatic pajama people who do not have lives, perspective, sense, manners, maturity, or self-control when hiding beyond anonymity and a keyboard to ignorantly attack someone (often in sexually menacing and violence-threatening language if they’re specifically attacking a woman or attacking someone whom they know has a wife or daughter).

    • When I looked over the reviews most of the raving and filth spewing and CAPS locking was in the 5 star reviews attacking the 1 star reviewers. I think the worst insult I saw applied to Harriet was venal. The most common was misguided.

    • Unfortunately, the “raving, filth-spewing lunatic pajama people who do not have lives” are the people who buy books. It might be more fruitful, though admittedly cynical, to figure out how to get their money rather than name-calling (not that name-calling is unwarranted, particularly in the case of Seanan Maguire).

    • “This is about the internet being full of raving, filth-spewing lunatic pajama people who do not have lives, perspective, sense, manners, maturity, or self-control when hiding beyond anonymity and a keyboard to ignorantly attack someone”

      Laura, normally I have a lot of respect for your opinion but I really feel the need to say that this is a sick attitude you have toward your fellow human beings. Are there a lot of awful people on the internet? Sure. But you gather up a large number of human beings anywhere and you’re going to find that a good percentage of then are awful people. The internet is also full of really awesome people, like everyone who frequents this blog.

      Furthermore, you are the one speaking from ignorance here. I personally read through over 100 of the 1 star reviews last night out of curiosity and the vast majority of them were well spoken people who had an honest grievance and just wanted to voice it in the way they felt would have the most impact. Maybe 2% were idiots (one accused Robert Jordan for the fiasco) or crossed the line into real belligerence (I only saw one that hoped Harriet would choke on all the money made from the book). Most of them clearly understood exactly what was going on and wanted Tor and Harriet (who is, after all, responsible) know that they had lost fans for the series and/or lost sales. The common accusations were greed and stupidity, which may not be particularly nice, but are probably accurate.

      These people are angry but they are not lunatics and they are not spewing filth. Maybe you should actually pay attention to what people say and do instead of throwing out a string of ad hominems.

    • While I wouldn’t have put it so strongly as Laura, I do agree we live in a “I want it now, give it me now” world full of impatient, intolerant people who act like precocious children. Back when I was young and had little money, I used to have to wait over a year to read my favourite authors because I couldn’t afford the hardback and had to await the paperback or my local library to get hold of a copy. I didn’t demand the publisher, author, author’s estate or book seller do something about it because I thought I had a God given right to read the book now. I waited.

      Nobody demands Hollywood release its films in both download and DVD at the same time of the cinema release, even though that may be the preferred format for some people. You want to download a movie, you have to wait. You want an ebook of a novel that is first released in hardback, then wait. I can’t understand these people. They’ve already waited over five years for it since the book was written (The author in question died 5 years ago!), so waiting a few more months isn’t going to make much difference.

  18. And people wonder why I say the majority of reviews are crap. Remember: Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody’s got one.

    So many people/readers online I’ve interacted with say they depend on reviews on whether or not to buy a book rather than reading the sample. But there are so many worthless reviews. I read them for entertainment value only.

  19. I am curious to hear other peoples’ opinion. Do you think some of this anger is less about the 4 month wait for the ebook and more about the 20+ year wait for the end of the story. My brother started reading when the first book was released, and a the time the word was that it was expected to be a trilogy. After the second book he told me it was going to be 5 books. After the fourth was released I saw an interview with Jordan that said it would be 7.

    • I don’t think that has much to do with it. The people who were upset by that (like, for instance, me) are long gone from the readership.

      I stopped about six books in when the Zeno’s Plotline nature of the books became apparent (each book takes twice as long to say half as much.)

      • I was thinking in “straw that broke the camel’s back” terms. Either that or people who dropped it but thought they might check back in when the series was finally completed. You might be right though.

  20. Wow. There has to be some form of redress from an author’s perspective. These reviews are supposed to be about the book, as someone said. The Amazon TOS for the reviews seems to prohibit those types of reviews, so maybe you can ask Amazon to remove them as violations of the review guidelines?

    Off-topic information:

    Feedback on the seller, your shipment experience or the packaging (you can do that at http://www.amazon.com/feedback and http://www.amazon.com/packaging)
    Details about availability or alternative ordering and shipping information

    • It really depends on your interpretation of those guidelines. I read those guidelines and felt it was a grey area. Possible areas of the guidelines that could allow for this type of thing are:

      1) “Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.” – I think someone could argue that the ebooks of previous books in the series count as related items

      2) “focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it” – Again you could argue that the format is a ‘feature’ especially in the case of those who have seen the physical book either through purchase or in a retail environment.

      If Amazon does delete the reviews they’ll have to delete a lot of the 5 star reviews too. Many of them are more clear violations of the policy containing abusive language and have even less substance than the one star reviews.

  21. I think this could be an indication that readers are no longer going to settle for authors saying “Oh, it was the publisher’s fault. I had no control” anymore when publishers do stupid things that disrespect readers. I think the internet and the self-publishing revolution are going to make it more likely that readers will hold authors accountable for how their books reach the public. Authors will no longer be able to just let publishers “take care of everything”. They will either have to take responsibility for the quality of their product (which is NOT just the story, it is also the presentation of the story and the accessibility of the story to readers) or suffer the consequences.

    • Consumers speak with their wallets. If they buy the book, then they settle. If they don’t buy it, then they don’t settle. That’s how markets work.

      • And a lot of these 1 star reviews are specifically stating that they refuse to buy the book in hardcover. “No ebook, no sale” is a common refrain as I look through them. So what’s your point?

        • My point is that they will be buying the book. It’s a classic case of sliding down the demand curve. Those willing to pay high prices will pay. Those willing to pay less will wait. As long as they buy, they are indeed settling. They are doing what the sellers expect. Sellers don’t expect lots of expensive hardcover sales. They just want to get the $35 from those who are willing.

          The alternative is to not buy the book in any format. That would indicate they are not settling. I agree consumers have preferences. But those preferences matter to sellers only if they affect sales. This isn’t unique to books. It happens in most markets.

        • (I’m losing my comments here. So if it shows up a few times, I apologize.)

          My point is that they will be buying the book. It’s a classic case of sliding down the demand curve. Those willing to pay high prices will pay. Those willing to pay less will wait. As long as they buy, they are indeed settling. They are doing what the sellers expect.

          Th alternative is to not buy the book in any format. That would indicate they are not settling. I agree consumers have preferences. But those preferences matter to sellers only if they affect sales. This isn’t unique to books. It happens in most markets.

          • I don’t know if they will follow through but a lot of people are saying no new purchase ever because of this. They will borrow the book or get it from the library.

            • That is my point. I can’t see the future either, but many, many of the 1 star reviewers are vowing never to buy this book. They say they will borrow it from a friend or the library or just pirate it. And many also say they will never give money to Tor again. If that’s not “not settling” I don’t know what is.

              • “Not selling” prevails when those people actually do refrain from purchasing. People say all kinds of things. Unless the sellers determine there has been a material decrease in actual sales, they will take little notice.

                Sellers do monitor sentiment expressed by the public, but they have to determine how representative that sentiment is.

                So do the sellers believe those threats? i suspect they dismiss them.

  22. I was looking through some of the articles online about the backlash of this decision not to release in ebook format, and came across this forum’s comments. I was one of the 1 star reviewers on Amazon and someone above me hit the nail on the head about the reviews having a bigger effect or public outreach than writing a letter to Harriet, the publisher or Sanderson himself. What happens when you write a letter to a company? Yours is one of thousands that end up in file 13. We don’t live in the 90′s. We don’t live in 2005 or 2010. Ereaders and electronic format are putting newspapers and other forms of print out of business. The wave of e-print isn’t going to be halted or even redirected in the slightest due to some author’s widow “not being comfortable with ebooks” or “trying to hold off pirating.” Less than 2 days after the book was published, it was available for download on piratebay for free. Now granted, I am a novice reader. I have 20-30 books on my ereader and a few little stacks of physical books around the house, but here is my take on this situation: Sanderson isn’t stupid. He knew that holding off on ebooks was going to cause a backlash of bad press and piracy. There’s no way he didn’t express this to Harriet and there’s no way she didn’t understand that this was going to happen. Harriet has seen the reviews. Sanderson has seen the reviews. The publishers have seen the reviews. Amazon allows folks to review a product based on many facets of the experience. It’s funny to see so many 5-star reviewers spewing bile about the 1-star reviewers about their beloved book, when every product on Amazon has reviews that may not follow the “guidlines” of reviews perfectly, so of course they immediately jump on that bandwagon and try to get the negative reviews squashed. For me, it was a direct protest to Harriet, Sanderson (for failing to express the gravity of the situation before-hand) and the publishers. This will hit them directly in the wallet. No petty “letter” they will delete or throw away. A protest and a warning to future publishers that says “Yes, let’s hear your raggedy excuses as to why you can’t give us an e-book at the regular release date….” It’s not about people like me being whiners, or children, or pitching a fit. It’s the consumers telling the businesses what they want. I run a small business. If a large majority of my customers told me they wanted me to do something a certain way, and I told them “too bad, whiners!” I’d be out of business shortly. Hopefully anyone with the mentality to shun their customer base will follow the same route. Ask the music industry how their efforts are coming along with their fight against piracy, a-la-carte purchases and digital formats. Adapt and please your customers, or file for bankruptcy.

  23. I don’t see these types of 1 star reviews as hurting sales of a book. After all, they clearly state that the 1 star has nothing to do with the story itself or the writing. It does say that a significant number of people would have purchased the book if it had been offered as an ebook.

    I just checked the book’s status on Amazon. It’s number 1 on Amazon’s best seller list. Who knows, if they had offered an ebook, it might have also made the Kindle best seller list.

    It’s #38 on USA Today’s best seller list. Since USA’s list includes ebook sales, it might have ranked higher if it were available as an ebook because obviously a lot of people wanted it in that format. So if sales are being hurt, it’s not the reviews that are hurting sales, it’s the fact that it’s not being offered in a format that a significant number of people are willing to purchase it in.

    • Interesting–http://usat.ly/13DwSAq

      However, I think that this list ends 01/10/13 & the book came out on 01/08/13, I think. Which means it only gets two out of seven days of data, I think.

      It will be very interesting to see how it does next week…

  24. I find it amazing that the person being attacked, Harriet, is the one responsible for authorizing this story in the first place. Without her passion and commitment, this story doesn’t exist. You think maybe she’s earned the right to make these decisions?

    I could see being bitter if the book was not going to be released at all in ebook format. But it will be released – in 3 months! That’s far sooner than I wait for paperbacks. This instant gratification, self-aggrandizing, give it to me now attitude reeks. Happily I can skip over these reviews and look at others. The funny thing is, anyone who has read the book would be ashamed to give it one star. It’s magnificent.

    • Uh, what?

      Jordan outlined the book, Sanderson wrote it, and Harriet… took the profits?

      Actually she probably edited it too, but my point is that it would take zero commitment and passion to authorize the release of the final book in possibly the most famous and popular epic fantasy series of the past 15 years.

  25. Personally, I am offended by people intentionally lashing out at an author on a review site without actually reading the book. These 1-star “reviews” are not reviews at all. They are protests, plain and simple, and have no place on Amazon.com or Goodreads, or any of the other review sites. If you want to vent your spleen, do it at Tor.com. As for the people willing to pirate a book as a “protest”, I sincerely hope they get caught and at the very least have their internet access revoked. “I couldn’t buy the exact car I wanted, so I stole one instead” sounds pretty stupid to me. If the best protest they can come up with is to steal, they deserve to get caught and punished.

    As a final note, why are these people limiting themselves to protesting only the eBook release? Why not protest the lack of a paperback version? Shouldn’t they be outraged that paperback readers are being left out as well?

    A review should only be posted by people who have actually read the book. Everything else should be sent to the publisher.

    • I say if there’s no paperback after one year, people very definitely have the right to complain about it.

  26. I hope this at least discredits Amazon reviews.

  27. Damn those customers. They keep telling us what they want to buy, instead of just taking whatever we put out. The arrogant twits.

  28. I don’t think anyone was saying the readers don’t have a right to complain. They do. The point is that 1-star bombing the book with a bad review as a form of protest is like me emptying my bladder on your carpet because the soap was a bar instead of liquid… and I couldn’t stand to wait for you to bring me the other kind!

    Complaints about corporate policy and authors’ or rightsholders’ decisions don’t belong in a place set aside EXCLUSIVELY for book reviews.

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