Here’s the deal. I’m reading a trilogy by Robin Hobb. It’s a fantasy series, yes, and the books are actually a bit of a trudge, but surely worth it in the end. I have the first two in paperback. The third—and final—book is now out in hardcover. I don’t buy hardcover.
So, I would very much like to visit on online book retailer, find the hardcover edition of this book, and check a box that says, “Notify me when this is available in paperback.” Submit! When I get the email, I click on a link, I check out, I have the book, they have my money.
But nobody does that. Not Amazon, not Borders, not Barnes & Noble. Now, I understand that they can’t actually place a pre-order for a book that does not yet exist. It hasn’t been announced by the publisher, it doesn’t have an ISBN number, and who knows, maybe they’ll never get around to printing a paperback version of it.
But chances are (and I’d put them at 99.99%) that this book will eventually show up in paperback form. They could offer me the option, with the caveat that I may never get notified. If any of those three retailers had this option, they would have just made a sale. As it is, I’ll likely forget about it, and maybe see the book on a shelf during one of my infrequent visits to a physical bookstore. And maybe I’ll buy it then, and maybe I won’t.
On a related note: Borders and B&N both offer lists of books coming soon. But none of these lists are searchable. Hello? Of course, Amazon doesn’t seem to offer a browsable Coming Soon list, so maybe the other guys aren’t worried.