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Unhappy Kindle users unleash a flood of one-star reviews for title with no e-book editon

Over at Publishing Perspectives, Hannah Johnson highlights an interesting phenomenon surrounding a book called Game Change, the controversial political tell-all about how Barack Obama won the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Despite receiving much attention in the press, 119 of the 193 Amazon reviews slap the book with a rating of one star. The reason has nothing to do with the content; users are angry at the book’s publisher, HarperCollins, for delaying the release of an electronic Kindle version.

David A. Tranter gives the book one star and writes:

I purchased a kindle to have immediate access to books as soon as they are released, not stand in a virtual line waiting for the publisher to get with the program. Had Amazon infomed me before I bought a kindle that new releases would be available only once interest in the hardcover version had died down completely, I wouldn’t have purchased a kindle. Wake up HarperCollins and Amazon!

And B. Hobbs writes:

So the publishers decided to make Kindle users wait for six weeks to buy the hot “new” political tome? In six weeks, we’ll be on to something else. Sorry, I spent a premium on my Kindle. I’m not going to run out and buy another hardback for $25. Just not going to happen.

The protest has prompted a heated discussion about whether one-star reviews should be used to punish a publisher for not releasing a book in the users’ preferred format, a situation at least one reviewer, Neel Gulhar, acknowledges:

I know some think that rating a book as 1-star due to an e-book release delay is unethical or inappropriate. But I think these publishers need to get the message that its [sic] not the right thing to do, and they need to work out their differences with Amazon. The best way to do that is to do this rating and damage the overall average – hopefully that hurts them where it hurts (the pocketbook).

One of the commenters on a discussion thread entitled “AMAZON: Please delete the one-star ‘no Kindle’ reviews” sums up the problem with this protest nicely: “This is like giving a waitress who busted her butt to serve her customers a poor rating on a customer satisfaction form because the restaurant didn’t carry a particular brand of beer.”