Why isn’t A Memory of Light available for the Kindle?

Why isn’t A Memory of Light available for the Kindle?

Yesterday, when I was doing my monthly Snapshot analysis, I ran into something I haven’t seen in at least a year.

A New York Times bestselling hardback fiction equivalent wasn’t available for the Kindle.

Years ago, in the early days of the Kindle, that happened fairly often. We might have almost all of the bestsellers, but there might be a couple that weren’t available.

The return to that situation struck me as quite odd.

First, when I prepared the list, that book was #1 (it’s now #2). The book in question, by the way, is

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time)

by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. This is a book in a very popular series.

My first thought was that maybe it had just been released, and the e-book was just a couple of days late. Well, the release date says January the 8, and there are over a 1,000 reviews, so that wasn’t it.

Then, unfortunately, my next thing to check was whether all Tor books were out of the Kindle store. Tor (which publishes this book) is part of Macmillan, and, well, no publisher has had a more contentious relationship (at least publicly) with Amazon than Macmillan.

So, I went to

eReaderIQ.com

and ran a search. I got over 1,700 Tor books in the Kindle store, including ones that had been published very recently…I saw one right away that was published after January 8th.

The next major variable I wanted to check was author. It used to be, in the past, that some authors resisted having e-book versions. That’s mostly gone away (John Grisham, J.K. Rowling). Taking a look at the

Robert Jordan Amazon Kindle page

there were plenty of Kindle books…including earlier books in this series.

The same thing was true at the

Brandon Sanderson Amazon Kindle page

Hm…

Well, the book is $34.99 paper list, so I skimmed the NYT bestsellers in this category to see if that might be anomalously high. I could see a publisher releasing a sought-after book at a high price just in hardback, then reducing the price later and doing an e-book version. That’s called “windowing”, and of course, it’s the way it used to work with hardbacks and paperbacks, but there was a lot of pushback about it with hardbacks and e-books.

While only a couple of other books were over $30, many were in the high twenties. I don’t think that’s the factor.

Next step: check to see if the e-book is available other places. That’s a possibility. In this case, that’s not as bad as in many others, since Tor releases their books without Digital Rights Management (DRM), and I believe they explicitly allow format shifting (I have to double-check that). So, you could hypothetically buy it from the NOOK store, if available, and convert it to MOBI format for your Kindle.

Nope.

Not available in e-book format at Barnes & Noble, it seemed unlikely that someone else would have an exclusive.

By the way, an audiobook was available at both Amazon and B&N.

Okay, I figured I’d check the Tor website and Robert Jordan’s site, to see if there is a statement.

Tor had a ton of stuff on A Memory of Light

Tor’s A Memory of Light page

including excerpts and production notes. I didn’t see anything there about the lack of an e-book version (although it could have been buried somewhere).

Robert Jordan’s

DRAGONMOUNT website

didn’t seem to have a search. Their e-book store does have a prologue to A Memory of Light, but not the e-book of the actual book.

Let’s try Google:

Yep, that did it!

Wow, I feel like I should have known this without all this digging! As they say, “Google is your friend.” ;) Okay, a super snoopy nosy friend, but still… ;)

Christian Science Monitor article

Well, it turns out it is a fascinating story!

It’s explained in a post on

Brandon Sanderson’s blog

Sanderson explains that Harriett, Robert Jordan’s widow,

“… is uncomfortable with ebooks. Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn’t about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband’s legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the Wheel of Time from hitting number one on either list.”

I applaud Tor and Brandon Sanderson for taking Harriet’s opinion into account, even though I think it will likely not accomplish what she wants. I would speculate that she wants to take some active step, something perhaps unexpected, to help actively participate in shaping what her husband has left behind.

However, my own opinion is that e-book sales are unlikely to cannibalize p-book (paperbook) sales at this point. I think that most people who actually read e-books will want to wait for that format, and may be irritated that it’s not available. Yes, some people will want to buy the book to collect, to pass on to a future generation, but I would guess that they might buy both formats if they had the option: the e-book to read, the p-book to store.

I’ve certainly bought the same book more than once, with an eye towards keeping a pristine one in my library, and having another “reading copy” (or several) to lend out and give away.

It looks to me like it has hurt the Amazon reviews.

Out of 1,026 reviews at time of writing, 315 of them are one star reviews. While many of them, as I first look, criticize the content, there are clearly some that upset about the lack of e-book edition.  For example, one says:

“Not having Memory of Lifht (sic) available on Kindle or in any digital format as soon as it is published is a boneheaded move as you just angered a large part of your customer base.”

For contrast, only 7% of the reviews of the previous book in the series were 1-star reviews (compared to 31% here).

I don’t think this will have a lasting negative effect on the perception of Jordan or the series, but Tor did, I think, choose to take a short term hit to honor the author’s widow.

Sometimes, the heart wins…even in a business like publishing.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “Why isn’t A Memory of Light available for the Kindle?”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I wish somebody could convince the widow that e-books make reading possible for folks who have vision disorders and that by not allowing digital format she’s leaving the expensive Audible Audio edition as the only solution for us. I notice there’s not even a button to click to let the publisher know you’d like to see the book in Kindle format.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Oh, I absolutely agree! It’s not just that…even people who can certify a disability and get a free accessible edition may simply find it easier and more pleasant to buy the book and share that with other people on the account who don’t have the same challenges. That results in more sales.

      However, I can also see not wanting to push…if she just didn’t want to talk about it (which I think is partially the same situation with Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird), if I was the publisher, I might back off as well. Might be tough to explain to shareholders, though…

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