The Final Form: Digital Publication

I have been reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series since I was in elementary school. I took the first book out from the school/town library (they were in the same building) and distinctly remember being scared at some of the descriptions, but being ten or eleven at the time should provide some excuse. That was six or so years after the first book in the series came out.

The last book in the series came out this week and, of course, I pre-ordered the book. Amazon did not (or could not) ensure the book was shipped the on the release day, let alone have it arrive on the same day. Frustrated, I went to Amazon to see if anyone else experienced a similar issue. They had not, but there were more than a hundred of comments and one-star reviews; one comment said:

“This book is rated one star since it is still a partially unpublished manuscript until it becomes published as an ebook.”

It turns out that, for a variety of reasons (explained here), the e-book release is delayed several months, prompting the above comment.

Once upon a time, a time such as when the first book in the series came out, this sort of complaint would have been unthinkable. Even a few years ago when any book like this would have been typed on a computer, it was unthinkable that the final form of publication would exist on a computer. Now? A large number of people believe that a publication is not complete unless it is available electronically for a popular series. To the best of my knowledge, the same is not true for academic books, although the proliferation of electronic journals indicates that it is moving in that direction, too.

A lot of ink has been spilled and even more pixels filled with discussions of the future print and electronic literacy and while I have my own opinions and preferences, though I do not mean for this to be a bully platform from which I argue one way or the other. I just want to point out the evolution of expectations.

While I wait for my book to arrive, I have plenty of other books demanding to be read. Does anyone have thoughts on this change?

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