"The Big Short's" rough Amazon reception

Kindle users pan Michael Lewis' new book -- because there's no digital version

Published March 17, 2010 10:18PM (EDT)

As of 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, Wednesday, 44 out of 81 Amazon reviews for Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" gave it the lowest rating possible -- one measly star.

That's kooky. The book is receiving rave reviews everywhere, from the New York Times to yours truly. Barry Ritholtz, in the amusingly headlined post, "Hey Bezos, Fix Your Eeejit Pro-Kindle Anti-Author Book Reviewers", explains: The reviewers are slagging Lewis because there is no Kindle version available, yet.

Some excerpts:

  • "Why is the publisher being so greedy as to not release a version for the Kindle? This book gets 1 star from me because I can't even read it. Amazon needs to make a new rule that all new releases require a Kindle version or they shouldn't sell it."
  • "Ridiculous this book is not available for the Kindle. It's 2010 people, I don't want to kill a tree, waste gas, throw away shipping packaging, I just want to read the book on my Kindle...I'll buy another book instead but not one from this particular publisher."
  • "I find it so ironic that Michael Lewis describes an industry out for short term reward at the expense of their long term survival...How else can you describe a publisher that chooses to charge more for a zero cost digital edition than they do to print a book on paper, bind it, and truck it out to 1000s of stores around the country than someone determined to make the most money as quickly as possible while losing sight of their long term survival... And shame on Michael Lewis for being part of this. I guess he too had his price.

And so on. Including the inevitable meta-discussion, as other commenters use their review space to attack the Kindle-waving legions.

I'm with Ritholtz. The Kindle fanboys are being unfair to Lewis, and displaying an unseemly amount of technologically-enabled instant gratification entitlement. It is highly unlikely that the author has any control or even input into the timing of the Kindle release of "The Big Short." But where's the agony in waiting a week or two? I remember when we had to slog for miles through the snow and rain to go to an actual bookstore to buy a book, and sometimes, gasp, the store didn't even stock what I wanted. But I survived.

Then again, if there's one thing we know about new technology, it's that it can very difficult to control how users employ it. Sometimes it's hilarious, as in the Amazon reviews for uranium ore. This time out, a little less so.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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