I was reading an article last night about “windowing” and I noticed a lot of people in the comment thread didn’t know what “windowing” meant. So here’s a quick post about it, with a few comments from me below.
Delaying (which is to say, “windowing”) the e-book has been tried, but not all “serious readers” are so biddable as to let themselves be pressured into buying the hardback. Many of them will submit one-star reviews on Amazon decrying the publisher’s asinine anti-e-book position and not buy it at all out of spite, and others will go out and pirate the book as soon as some enterprising pirate scanner makes it available—and then not buy the e-book when it is released.
In other words, windowing means they don’t release the e-book at the same time they release the hard cover. The mind set behind this seems to be that we will all run out and buy the hard cover first, which most of the time costs more money and keeps brick and mortar bookstores in business. I guess this could be compared to the way films are released, where they open in movie theaters, then go to DVD, and ultimately wind up on cable.
Harper Collins has chosen to delay the Kindle release to assuage its fear of cannibalizing sales. In the process of assuaging these fears—whether rational or irrational—it has set loose a whole different set of cannibals: potential Kindle book buyers.
The ensuing firestorm has directly impacted the book’s ratings as many Kindle customers have chosen to use a controversial tactic to voice their chagrin. I am alluding to the use of a one-star review, in which a commenter slams a book or publication for reasons concerning pricing and/or availability.
What this is basically saying is that you don’t screw around with people who read e-books. If you do they are going to blast you with one star reviews whether they’ve read the book or not. I know this from personal experience because I once had a one star review on Amazon by someone who hadn’t even read the book. He/she left the one star review because they’d seen it priced cheaper and they wanted to rant about it. I didn’t take it personally, nor did I take it as a reflection on the book. I don’t think the reader meant it that way either. And I think most readers know authors don’t control book prices.
But you don’t screw around with people who read e-books. I’m one of them. If a publisher thinks that by delaying the release of the e-book…or windowing it…will get people to buy more print books instead, it’s just not going to work. As a reader I don’t buckle to that kind of pressure and I’m more than willing to wait for the release of the e-book, no matter how long it takes. I didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for two e-reading devices, a tablet, and an iPhone for a publisher or author to dictate what format I’m going to read in. My last print book read was “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” and I have no intention of going back to print books in the future.
A better example about how I feel about e-books would be the e-book I’m reading right now, “The Front Runner,” by Patricia Nell Warren. It’s an LGBT classic that I’d read years ago in print. A few months ago I decided I wanted to re-read it and saw it wasn’t out yet in digital. I didn’t go out and buy a new print copy. I waited until it finally was released in digital and I just started re-reading this week. Had it not been released in digital, I probably wouldn’t be re-reading it at all.