When HC released Lois McMaster Bujold's second Sharing Knife book I called them Clueless Morons. Some 18 months later as we arrive at the release for book 4 - the conclusion of the tetralogy - they seem to remain equally bereft of clue.
Let me explain. Firstly regarding book 4 which I reviewed the ARC of last month. This book is to be released in Hardcover shortly on the 27th of January. It is to be released in eBook form sometime later. Precisely when and for what price is unclear.
If you go to a site like BooksOnBoard then you pay $26.99 less a 6% discount to total $25.37 (or €18.04 if you pay in Euros). Unfortunately to get your hands on these electrons you have to wait until Wednesday, April 22, 2009. This does somewhat correspond what you read at Harper Collins eBooks where is offered at a 20% discount to the $26.99 list price (total $21.59) and a date of April 2009. At both these sites you are informed that the only ebook formats available are Mobipocket and Adobe.
As you see the price is lower, it is available sooner and in more formats. This seems to be wonderful news until you click on "Buy now"button, at which point you get sent back to the front page of Harper Collins eBooks. This is not calculated to fill me with joy regarding Harper Collins.
(I also note that the Hardcover link above has the cover picture for the book, a picture which the none of the eBook sites can produce)
So to recap I can buy this book in electronic format in either February or April for $20.00 or more.
If I go to Amazon.com I can buy this book in hardcover paper format for shipping on Jan 27 for $17.81 + shipping. If I go to Amazon.fr I can buy this book in hardcover for shipping in "February" for €20,39 with free shipping. Were I a US resident I could buy the hardcover cheaper than the eBook and get it sooner than the eBook, as a European I get it for roughly the same price as the eBook but sooner. This, as I noted 18 months ago is nucking futs.
Compare with Baen. Take David Drake's In the Story Red Sky which will be published May 2009. I can already buy (for $15) the eARC of this book (and have done so). I will undoubtedly buy the finished product when May comes around as part of the 7 books for $15 bundle and there is a good chance that I'll end up buying a paper copy too at some point meaning that Baen get somewhere north of $17 from me without complaint. HC are going to get whatever cut they have of €20.39 with a lot of griping and a positive intention to purchase the absolute minimum from them in the future.
But it gets better. If, as a good European, I decide not to patronise HarpercollinseBooks in the USA but instead go for their UK arm I can't buy the book at all. In fact I can still only buy one Bujold book - Paladin of Souls - just as I could 18 months ago.
In the interests of science I had a poke on the Pirate Bay and found a 1GB torrent of the letters K,L and M out of 13130 bootlegged SF ebooks. This includes all of Lois's works to date in plain text PDFs which are quite easy to extract and convert to the unprotected ebook format of one's choice. One suspects that Book 4 will show up on a torrent site pretty quickly. Given the nose-bleed ebook price and their general unavailability until some months after the release of the cheaper hard cover, not to mention the confusion about formats and availability, it really looks like HC actually want people to get pirated eBook versions.