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Kindleistas

Submitted by Tom Peters on March 24, 2010 - 8:48am

Earlier this month, I was reading a review of a book I thought I might lead a discussion on when Smarter Money Island opens later this year in Second Life.  The review was positive, so I thought I would check Amazon for reader reviews and pricing.  When I pulled up the metadata page for the book in Amazon, I noticed that the average reader rating of the book was only about 2.  Maybe the book isn't as good as that one review intimated.  As I scrolled down, I noticed that the reviews were polarized between 5 stars and 1 star.  I accessed the page of reader comments, and it became apparent that the Kindlistas had been at work on this book.

Kindlistas are vehement Kindle owners.  If a newly published is not available in a Kindle edition, they will use the Amazon reader rating system to give the book low marks, thus pulling down the overall rating of the book, and perhaps shaming the publisher into releasing a Kindle edition pronto.  I've also seen groups of Kindlistas do something similar for books for which Kindle editions are available, but which are priced in the $15 zone, rather in the $10 zone.

The strategy of the Kindlistas both fascinates and repulses me.  They have figured out a way to collaborate as a group in order to express their disgust that either no Kindle edition is available, or that the Kindle edition is too high-priced, in their opinion.  Because Amazon gives the overall average rating for the book more prominence than the distribution of the ratings, some potential purchasers of the book may be turned off by the overall rating and browse away from the page without making a purchase.  The Kindlistas are using this little half-acre of the social media revolution to hit publishers and authors in their pocketbooks.

I don't know if this strategy is working.  When authors and publishers discover that their recently released book has been “attacked” by the Kindlistas, do they often reconsider their earlier decision to not offer a Kindle edition?  Do they decide to lower the Kindle edition price? 

What fascinates me is that a sizable portion of Kindle users feel so strongly about the idea that all newly released books should be available in Kindle editions for approximately $10 that they are willing to engage in this form of social disobedience.  Of course, giving a book a low reader rating because no Kindle edition is available, or because the Kindle edition is too expensive, does not reflect directly on the quality of the text itself.  The author is an innocent bystander in this battle between publishers, Amazon, and readers.

Has something like this ever happened in the history of publishing?  For example, when paperback versions of books were the latest invention, did paperback aficionados boycott newly published books that were available only in hardback editions, with no paperback edition planned or announced? 

Even if we think that the Kindlistas are using unfair tactics to make their points, I have to admire their belief that reading a book in a Kindle edition is so superior to other forms of reading that they are willing to resort to such tactics.  I don't own a Kindle myself, but I have downloaded the Kindle app for both my Blackberry smartphone and my netbook computer. 

Reading Kindle editions of books in these two manners is a fine experience, but what really makes the Kindle experience valuable to me is the ease, speed, and seamlessness with which the whole process works, in addition to the fact that I can read Kindle books in the dark, standing in line, etc.  I first downloaded the Kindle app on my Blackberry and read a couple of books on my phone.  When I recently purchased a netbook computer, one of the first apps I downloaded and installed was the Kindle app for the PC.  The whole system was smart and sensate.  As soon as I installed the software on my netbook, the books I had previously purchased for my Blackberry where in the netbook Kindle's archive, ready to be downloaded onto my netbook.  In fact, when I opened on my netbook one Kindle edition that I was in the midst of reading on my Blackberry, the text opened to the screen I had last read on my Blackberry.

The emergence of both the Kindle system and Kindlistas, which may be the yin and yang of the new reading dynamics, indicates to me that libraries, bricks and mortar book stores, and other organizations that serve readers need to pay attention and respond accordingly.  Reading emotions are running strong and high.   


Comments (1)

A couple of points - the

A couple of points - the first is that if you have an actual Kindle you cannot read in the dark. That is the main reason I dumped mine after getting halfway through my first book.

As for the kindlistas, it's just another manifestation of ridiculous sense of entitlement that so many people have. Why should Kindle books be priced at $9.99? If they took even a moment to think about it, they would see that the majority of costs involved in producing a book don't go away just because they are getting a digital version.

Why should publishers or authors be expected to release Kindle versions the first day they release the hardback? Do these people also expect to be able to go buy a DVD of a movie the day it opens in the theaters?

Finally, what do they really think will happen? If they successfully bring the ratings down to a point that the book actually loses sales, then they are only hurting themselves because the publisher will either need to up the price on the fewer volumes being moved or just let it lapse out of print.