L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

21 August 2008 Blog Home : August 2008 : Permalink

Tor Encourages Ebootlegging

It has come to my attention thanks to this post from the excellent John Scalzi that Tor are offering electronic editions of some of their recent works through channels other than the Webscription one that many of us have been waiting for.

However there is just one problemette, highly inconsistent pricing depending on where you buy / what format you want. Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is available as follows
Amazon (Kindle)
Sony Store (Sony Reader, PC)
Mobipocket (PC, Cybook, Iliad etc.)
Amazon (Dead Tree)
This is, to be blunt, nucking futs. Selling electrons for more than stacks of processed cellulose is something that I bitched about the clueless morons of Harper Collins doing and it amazes me that Tor, which usually appears to be slightly more clueful, would do the same thing. And then even looking purely at electronic editions there is the outrageous price difference between Kindle and Mobipocket. Recall that
  1. Amazon OWNS mobipocket
  2. the format difference is a minor DRM tweak
This is not an isolated example. Take another recent release, David Weber's By Schism Rent Asunder. This is available for $25.95 from Mobipocket, $18.16 from Sony and $17.13 from Amazon in paper (for some reason there is no Kindle edition yet). In addition to the questions raised above which also apply here there are a couple of others.
It may be worth noting that BSRA's predecessor (Off Armageddon Reef) is available for $12 or so from Fictionwise, Mobipocket and Sony and $5 from Amazon's Kindle store. It's OK to charge a bit more for the new release but why charge more for electrons that the paperback edition? and why make this one available for the Kindle when the sequel isn't?

I hope this is merely a cockup (possibly aided and abetted by the ebook shops) because there seems to be no logical reason to be this inconsistent unless Tor actually want people to feel like they are being treated like idiots. You may like to recall that both ZT and BSRA are either currently available in various bootlegged editions or will be shortly.  When you see a publisher doing stuff like this in a way that is reminiscent of the music industry then you have to wonder whether they are deliberately encouraging widespread bootlegging or not.

It isn't the only mistep Tor have made recently with regards to ebooks. As summarized at Teleread, referring to this Tor.com comment thread and this Mobileread thread (see especially page 3), there is considerable annoyance at the fact that in the build up to the launch of Tor.com numerous first ebooks in series were released for free. The problem is that there is no way to (legally) obtain the sequels, hence yet another incentive for people to go off to the dark side.

I'm sure Tor are genuinely trying to get their ebook strategy sorted behind the scenes and I hope they (and Baen and whoever else is involved) have prioritized the issue but as an outsider looking in it looks like Tor are doing their best to alienate the early adopters that they should be coddling.