Prompted yesterday by comments on my Twitter stream from people saying how much they are enjoying the new John le Carré book, Our Kind of Traitor, I decided to get it and move it up my TBR list.
I have been a fan of le Carré’s writing ever since his first Smiley novel, A Small Town in Germany, was released many years ago. Now everyone is saying, the latest book is one of his better recent works. And from the Twitter discussions, the book is obviously available in one or more ebook formats.
I started by doing a quick search from my iPad. That failed. Kobo, iBooks, and Kindle (I have accounts with all three) did not list the book. Checked back with the Twitterati who assured me, the book is evailable as a Kindle edition. I began to suspect ethnic profiling.
Another Epic Sony FAIL
Time constraints ended my Saturday search. I got back in the saddle today.
First discovery was, the Sony bookstore software on my PC is dead and Adobe Reader has magically made every ebook I bought since 2008 from Sony, Kobo, and others vanish. Actually, one is still there; a Kobo title I never got moved to my Sony Reader. Maybe my account got canned for saying nasty things about Sony’s crap software and Adobe’s horrendous DRM?
Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Kobo will let me re-download the titles I bought from them and I will put them on the iPad. I know where to find copies of the books I bought from Sony, so to hell with them, I have uninstalled their awful software and purged the registry of their attempts to hide additional tracking junk.
Penguin Hates Canadians
So it was off to Google Search, with these results:
01.Kobo lists only Single & Single, and The Constant Gardener, both at US$9.59
02.Diesel has it (Epub or PDF) for US customers only at $14.99
03.Sony has it for US customers only at $14.99
04.Barnes & Noble has it for US customers only at $14.99
05.Amazon UK has it for UK customers only at £8.08
06.Amazon US has it for US customers only at $14.99
07.Amazon Canada does not list it
The Kindle Edition listing on Amazon.com says “Pricing Information not available” and this green box alongside that:
Evidently, Amazon has determined that I am located in Canada and Penguin doesn’t want to sell to Canadians.
It seems that Americans are not exactly happy with the Agency pricing of this book on Amazon:
Changed my location to “Europe” and got the same. I guess Amazon UK is a special case. Trying locations in Australia and the Middle East got me the same green “we don’t want to sell to your kind” message.
Aside: PenguinBooks UK is selling the EPUB version of book at an extraordinary £18.99 (US$30.36 at today’s rates! I never realised the Brits were that affluent.
What to do?
No one wants to sell me a book by an author I enjoy, in a format I prefer to read it in. I could game the system, get a gift card, use a US address, and buy it that way.
Or I could pay more attention to the results I get in Google when I search on “ebook our kind of traitor” — half the first page listing is comprised of torrents. The torrents have it free in EPUB, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDF, RTF format options.
To mangle Clint Eastwood: “How honest to you feel today?”
Does Penguin believe that only Americans and the British read English? Pay attention to Twitter? LibraryThing? GoodReads? No one else in the world reads English and notices new books are available from famous authors? No one else in the world wants to buy ebook versions of those new books (hardcover versions are more widely available)?
A Big Circle
There is some real irony for me in this. A Small Town in Germany was released in paperback in 1970 and I heard about it around two years later. At the time I was living in Asia and set out to buy a copy. Couldn’t find it in bookstores in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, or Japan. None stocked it and none was interested in dealing with an import order. Some said the publishers would not ship the books to them anyway.
I finally tracked the book down in a bookstore in Taipei, Taiwan, when a friend in the US military steered me to it. The Caves bookstore, it transpired, was huge and stocked everything from the latest NYT best sellers to the complete OED and onwards to esoterica like sets of Boeing 707 service manuals. It was extraordinary.
Over the next few years, I visited the Caves store whenever I could find a book nowhere else. During those visits I ran into US Embassy people, CIA people, US military people, and a great many American and European business people, some resident in Taiwan and others on import buying trips from the US and Europe.
Not one book in the Caves store was legitimate. All were pirate printings (well printed and bound, I might add) selling for a tiny fraction of US retail. That store, and other smaller ones I later found in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Tainan, were the 1970s version of today’s torrents, supplying a demand which publishers chose to ignore.
Years later, American publishers persuaded the US Government to apply diplomatic pressure on Taiwan via aid discussions, and got the pirate industry (somewhat) shut down. The Caves tried going legitimate and you could find a tiny selection of legitimate printings at prices about twice the Los Angeles or London price. The store eventually folded.