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Kindle owners’ grass-root activism against non-Kindle books

March 17, 2010

How do some Kindle owners express their outrage against publishers who do not release a simultaneous Kindle edition of their new hardbacks? Some may click the passive little “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” link.  Others take a more aggressive tactic—slamming the book with a single-star rating.

Does this make a difference? As far as the ratings go, yes.  A look at the Amazon product page of the new book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, shows an average rating of 2 1/2 stars—pretty surprising for a book that has received very positive reviews from the traditional book reviewers.  That is because despite the 26 (currently) 5-star reviews, there are 45 (currently) 1-star reviews—mostly all from angry Kindle owners.

As for sales, well this is less certain. Currently, the book tops Amazon’s hourly-updated bestsellers list—so plenty of people are buying the hard copy. How many potential customers were turned off by the average rating (without digging deeper into the reviews to learn of the reason for the 1-star ratings) is unknown.  How many of the 1-star reviewers would have actually purchased the book if available in Kindle format is also unknown.

Is this fair?  Well, the review process of books on Amazon asks, “How do you rate this item?” without specifically asking about the content of the book itself.  So, if one does not like the book because it isn’t in an agreeable format, then, perhaps one can truthfully answer the review question.

Here is Salon.com’s coverage of the latest Kindle-campaign.

If this grass-roots movement is going to become a regular tactic, I would suggest the activists (or the media) to come up with a clever moniker for this tactic (e.g. 451, Kindle-fire, Publisher Kindling, Reaching the Kindling Point) Other suggestions?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 11:47 am

    “Is this fair? Well, the review process of books on Amazon asks, “How do you rate this item?” without specifically asking about the content of the book itself. So, if one does not like the book because it isn’t in an agreeable format, then, perhaps one can truthfully answer the review question.”

    This may be a limitation of Amazon, but the review system is for more than books–from kitchen knives to Wii games. I own a Kindle, and like it, but this does not feel “grassroots.” It feels like a movement of entitled middle-class interrupting their comfortable lives to lash out in a way that hurts authors, and likely no one but authors.

    • March 18, 2010 2:23 pm

      I tend to look for the “Amazon Verified Purchase” tag on comments and value these reviews vastly more so than those without the tag.

      But maybe authors will push their publishers to release eBook editions if they are really concerned about their average rating.

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