Saturday, March 6, 2010

Publishers behaving badly.

I can't remember where I heard about Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, but I liked it so much that when I got to the end of the Kindle sample chapter, I clicked "Buy now" as though I were just turning another page. No hesitation.

It didn't disappoint. McGuire's urban fantasy is full of fairies: caite sidhe, rose-goblins (like cats, but with bodies formed from rosebush branches, thorns and all), mixed race changelings -- and not a hint of twee in the whole thing. Instead: political intrigue, delayed revenge, and the tension surrounding relationships that have been left hanging. Someone described it as fairy noir, and that description is dead-on accurate. I was so happily drawn in that I didn't feel the need to speculate on who was behind the murder that's the main focus of the volume. There's another, larger plot that McGuire introduces, and I have the feeling that the two are probably connected. But enough is resolved in the first volume that I was happy to sit and wait for a sequel. A couple of weeks later, I read Rosemary and Rue over again, and liked it just as much. I told my friends about it. Even though it's part of an unfinished series, I said, you'll love it, and feel satisfied.

Fast forward to January, when I remembered that I should start looking for the second volume. Amazon listed the Kindle edition of A Local Habitation as being released on March 2, 2010, simultaneous with the printed edition. I pre-ordered. I love pre-ordering books on Kindle. At midnight on the day of release, they instantly appear, and I can read a chapter, maybe five, before waking up to finish on the day of. Or, I can start reading the next day without getting out of bed at all!

Don't get me wrong. I loved Harry Potter release parties. But the decadent pleasure of having a book appear as though someone had set it by my bedside, knowing that I would wake up excited about it? Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

Of course, that didn't happen this time. On February 25th, an email from Amazon arrived:

We're writing because the publisher has changed the release date for the Kindle version of the book listed below:

'A Local Habitation' by Seanan McGuire
Link to the Kindle Title:
The old delivery date was: 3/2/2010
The new delivery date is: 3/9/2010

Disappointing, especially because I'd scheduled a minor medical procedure (MMP) for March 2nd. I'm supposed to rest after this MMP, and while I normally hate lying around in bed, having a new Seanan McGuire book would have kept me blissfully, patiently still, and happily reading.

But then the MMP had to be rescheduled - for March 9th! All was right with the world. Until I woke up this morning to the new email from Amazon:

We're writing because the publisher has changed the release date for the Kindle version of the book listed below:

'A Local Habitation' by Seanan McGuire
Link to the Kindle Title:
The old delivery date was: 3/9/2010
The new delivery date is: 3/16/2010

I understand that publishers are worried about losing profits on ebooks, especially when they're having to negotiate with Amazon and Apple, who are each trying to outdo each other. But changing the Kindle release date each week is the worst sort of buyer manipulation, and at the moment, I don't feel much like buying "A Local Habitation" at all. McGuire's own suggestion that Kindle owners buy a print copy, and then donate it to their local women's shelter is great, and I may eventually do that. But at the moment, I've cancelled my Amazon order, and am not buying at all. It's less frustrating than waiting for another email to show up, informing me that the new Kindle release date is March 23rd. March 30th. April 6th?

I used to buy fewer than 10 new books per year. As a graduate student, my budget for them is pretty limited. But I love books, and my apartment is full of them. Therein lies the other reason for not buying more new books: my apartment is full of them. Books on the shelves, under the bed, on the floor...and the fact that I'm finishing a doctoral degree makes it likely that I'll be moving somewhere, maybe somewhere far away. Buying printed books is, in general, a bad idea for me. When I buy used, at least I'm spending less money on something I'll probably have to get rid of anyways.

I got the Kindle for iPhone just about a year ago. In that year, I have purchased not just 10, but 65 brand new books. At Christmas, I got a full-sized Kindle. If I total up the money I've saved in discounts, the Kindle mostly paid for itself. I never used to browse bookstores looking to see if there was anything new. Now I do so regularly. Surely, publishers, I'm not the only one whose book buying habits are changing. But I've also never felt so jerked around by a publisher, and so reluctant to spend money on a book at all.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. :( I really don't know why the release date keeps getting bumped, but I fervently hope that it gets resolved soon, because it's frustrating for me, too.

    I am really sorry.