Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazon Release Dates & the Battle Against New Mediums

First, yes, I finished my first draft and met my deadline a day ahead of schedule, and that is why I am posting again. Sorry to not have told you sooner! Edits are pushed off just a bit, but I am reworking an old idea now, so no worries, I am writing still!

About a year ago, Garth Nix released the sixth book in his Keys to the Kingdom series, which ended in a dreaded cliffhanger, the lives of most characters hanging over the edge, their fates as unknown as the void of nothing. And that was the end of the book, with no conclusions and no certainty. It has driven me crazy for a year, let me tell you. But now, in March of 2010, the seventh and final book in the series, Lord Sunday is out, or coming out, depending on who you ask.

I, like most online consumers, consult first when looking for quick facts, like publishing dates. Amazon lists Lord Sunday to come out next Tuesday, but shows it as having come out on the 1st of March, not the 16th. This means that Borders released the book more than two weeks before the shopping giant Amazon. What's more, Amazon shows the audio book being released a week before the book, which brings about another issue. Not only are sellers releasing items on different dates, making book birthdays hazy and confusing anxious buyers, but the audio books are available, adding to the shift we've already begun to see where consumers are favouring audio books and ebooks to hard copies.

Audio & ebooks already have advantages over real books, in that they are more compact, easier to carry and store, and easily distributed. They also tend to be cheaper, by and large. But with these new medias, you lose a part of what is so wonderful about books. You lose that sense of holding something real in your hands, the ability to imagine a character's voice for yourself, the eternal battery power of a book, and that new book smell. Books capture memories between their pages, little pieces of you, and other forms blend in with the rest of the medias we absorb every day. A page in an ebook has less effect, read between the hundreds of internet pages viewed every day; a chapter in an audiobook drowned out by mp3s and radio broadcasts. Still, the market is shifting, and if a reader is desperate enough for the book, they may be moved to buy an ebook or audiobook simply because it releases a week before the corporeal copy. This also loses publishers money, so I'm forced to wonder why sites like amazon would set up the dates as such.

I am reminded, of course, of the recent troubles with amazon and publishers such as MacMillian, where it becomes apparent that Amazon simply doesn't care about the publisher's rights, but even so, wouldn't they make more on an item with a higher price?

All of this said, I am buying my book from Borders, like I originally intended, and I will be buying a physical copy. I'm a little miffed that I was misled by Amazon's dates, as I could have been reading the climactic conclusion already, and all this anxious waiting over the past week could have been avoided. Unfortunately, I cannot wait for shipping, but I am forced to wait for a new in-store coupon to arrive in my email. We'll see if I'm able to hold out until then.

Coming Soon: reviews of Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson & Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney, a post on biographies prefacing novels, & the writer's journey as seen in Harold and the Purple Crayon.

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