I started my career on Wall Street in a non-technical role. After I gained the confidence to make the move from hobby to profession, the company that I was working for did not let me be a programmer, so I quit my job to start my own one man shop. My first customers were Wall Street firms. Because of this background, I understand bonds, options, swaps, and other complex financial transactions. My guilty pleasure is reading about massive financial blowups, books like: When Genius Failed, Liar’s Poker, and House of Cards.
Michael Lewis, the bestselling writer of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, just released a new book called The Big Short. It is a book about the bond and real estate derivative markets and the short selling people did the year before the massive crash of 2008.
I wanted to read this book and headed to Amazon.com to buy it for my Kindle. I noticed that it was the #1 selling book on Amazon, so I did not even have to search for it, it was right there on the home page. That is when I realized that there is no Kindle version! I have a rule, no more “real” books, if it is not on the Kindle it doesn't exist to me. This is my preference and it exists for a variety of reasons: love of my Kindle, tons of crap to bring when I travel, too many books laying around the house, me temporary living in Hong Kong and don’t want to transport books 8,000 miles are on the top of the list. (If you don’t own a Kindle and think I am blowing hot air, ask yourself when the last time you bought a physical CD was, fancy iPod owner.)
If you remember back in January, I made a prediction on the blog that the content providers will fight back against Netflix and Amazon: and fight back they did. Once Macmillan forced Amazon’s hand back in late January, the rules changed. If you remember MacMillian, threatened to withhold their entire collection of books, print and digital, unless Amazon raised their prices for the Kindle. Amazon challenged, but lost and had to capitulate.
Now it appears that the publisher of The Big Short, W. W. Norton & Company, is doing something more evil, they are withholding the Kindle version until the paperback comes out. This is to boost the hardcover sales.
What a bad idea. The publisher is living in the pre-digital book era. Someone who owns an eReader is not going to buy a hardcover book ever again. The market has changed. W W Norton doesn’t realize it.
I heard about the book and was willing to spend $9.99 as an impulse buy. I would even pay $12 or $13 for the Kindle version, only a few dollars less than the list price. Now I have to wait at least 6-8 months and may forget or the book may lose its spot on my priority list.
The publisher is also assuming that I will still want to read this book a year from now, that the financial crisis will still be deep in my mind and I will want to rush to buy it. They are also assuming that I won’t illegally download this book as well. (Something they are forcing me to consider.)
The publisher is making a big mistake. They are pushing me to defer my purchase, a purchase I may never make. They would have made a sale today, but choose not to sell it to me. They are trading guaranteed profits today for potential profits later.
The reviews of The Big Short on Amazon are interesting.
There are more negative reviews (1 star) than positive (5 + 4 star). Most of the reviews are people like me complaining that there is no Kindle version! The author is being punished for the decisions of his publisher. Several bloggers came out to defend Lewis and bash Amazon. I am not one of them.
An author like Lewis has clout and could have put his foot down. He also could have chosen to self publish, sell it on Amazon and B&N only in e-format for $7.99 and kept all the profits. So while it sucks that his book is getting negative reviews, I don’t feel sorry for him. Besides it is still the #1 bestseller on Amazon as of now.
I’ll leave you with a great quote promoting the Kindle:
"The coolest thing, by far, is that you think of a book you'd like to read, someone tells you about a book you'd like to read, and in 30 seconds, it's on your screen, all of it."
--Michael Lewis, 2007.