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Kindle Bomb for Michael Lewis and The Big Short



March 16, 2010 – Comments (7)

Odd that Lewis was one of the the original mouthpieces for the Kindle, but can't get his publisher (or won't?) to put his latest book out on the Kindle.

As a result, Kindle owners are giving the book a one-star rating, and causing the non-kindle, Lewis fans to cry about unfair ratings.

I say this: Kindle bomb Lewis and The Big Short. Those who rail that this is "abuse" of the star rating system or that it's "not fair" don't get it. If I want a new Acura and Honda refuses to offer it in anything other than an overweight, overpriced, neon-pink, then I have every right to rate it one star. 

So, go ahead and head to Amazon, and give The Big Short a one-star rating

But don't just do it for the Kindle, do it because Lewis wrote this ridiculous article in January of 2007, telling everyone that derivatives were the saviors of the financial system -- not the toxic garbage they turned out to be. Not only that, but anyone who worried about the risk of derivatives was a "wimp," a "ninny" and a "pointless skeptic."

Now that there's a buck to be made lionizing the wimps, ninnies, and pointless skeptics, however, ML is right up at the front of the line with his hand out. 

Check out how much Lewis didn't know back then: "None of them seemed to understand that when you create a derivative you don't add to the sum total of risk in the financial world; you merely create a means for redistributing that risk."

Complete nonsense, of course, because the risk was being "redistributed" to a chain of counterparties who were all leveraged, and all hedging by palming off their "risk" by taking trades with other leveraged counterparties. At the end of the line was an empty bag. Lewis, who knows what scum bond traders and bond-trading shops are, nevertheless rose to the defense of this Saloman on steriods system, toting the Wall Street line because it gave him an opportunity to score a few naughty-language points against those mamby-pamby wussies in Davos. (I think Lewis has a secret shame issue regarding his art history major, but that's another kettle of psychofish..)

Lewis concluded that Bloomberg tour-de-force of ignorance by writing "Is perhaps the only point of standing in the snow and expressing your doubts to a television camera to prove that you are the sort of person whose doubts matter?"

Perhaps. But being the kind of person who rejected those doubts until it became clear in retrospect that they were right, and who now stands in front of television cameras purporting to be an expert on something he got spectacularly wrong at the time, well, that seems  lot worse.


P.S. Michael Lewis is coming to Fool HQ this week to enlighten us. I wonder if guys like me -- who think that facts and motive matter more than a witty story -- are welcome...


7 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On March 16, 2010 at 7:55 PM, kdakota630 (29.14) wrote:

Actually, I hate when people one-star rate something for a reason like that.

For example, I'll be wanting to see what people said about a movie or book, and some guy gives it one-star because shipping took longer than expected.

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#2) On March 17, 2010 at 3:41 AM, borisvolodnikov (69.35) wrote:

Shipping is a bit different than product format though - it's a seperate service. I can hate a product because you offer it to me in blue, green, or yellow, and I want orange, but your beef is with the merchant rather than the product if you want to buy your orange thing with American Express and they only take Visa and Mastercard.

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#3) On March 17, 2010 at 9:09 AM, TMFBent (99.25) wrote:

I disagree. This isn't about shipping (and shipping is a part of the service anyway. If you don't agree, go ahead and order everything from me on my "I'll send it to you 3 months from now" site).

The format is important. Kindle users who put a one-star on a book that a publisher (or author) refuse to make available are rating a product low because it comes in a heavy, clumsy, loud, out-of-date, unsearchable, un-archivable format.

Format matters. How would you rate a book full of amazing stories if it were full of spelling and grammar errors? What about if the print size were so small that you needed a magnifier to read it? How about a translation that's so poor as to be unreadable, form a great foreign original? I might argue that if you gave it 1 star, you weren't rating the actual story, and that's unfair, so your ranking should be pulled.

How about if the book is so poorly bound that the cover comes off and the pages end up on the bathroom floor next to the toilet? Is it OK to rate the book one-star then? Or do we have to all cleave to the notion that the story (or intended story) is all that matters?

I'm all for ratings liberty. Let people rate on whatever criteria they want -- because the truth is, they'll do it anyway. They will just be less honest about their reasons.

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#4) On March 17, 2010 at 10:21 AM, kdakota630 (29.14) wrote:

I'm all for "ratings liberty" too, it can just be annoying.  At least usually you can sort through the ratings to at least see why it was rated the way that it was by a specific user.

For me, your Kindle thing would annoy me if I was trying to learn about the content of the book, but at least I'd figure I could ignore the majority 1-star ratings for the reason you mention.

Grammatical errors?  Fine.  Print size?  Fine.  Poor translation?  Fine, since the person is writing the review for that particular edition.  Book poorly bound?  Fine.  Those would all be things I want to know about.

However, I don't want to sort through 75 1-star ratings for an atlas because 75 people took issue with the fact that they referred to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf.

Or if there was some website that rated investing community websites and CAPS a 1-star rating because a bunch of people didn't like one particularly annoying blogger.

I'm not saying that people should or shouldn't do it or that those that do should have their reviews pulled.  It just that I, KDakota630, find it annoying.

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#5) On March 17, 2010 at 7:14 PM, Alyalbi (< 20) wrote:

I find the no-Kindle=1-Star review argumentation highly questionable.  Prior to the availability of the Kindle, did Amazon book reviewers post 1-Star reviews, because the book wasn’t available in paperback format?  Would such a review relate to the contents of the book, analytical of the author’s oeuvre?  No, because we’re used to the fact that a paperback version will follow (as the Kindle format will follow (or already has.))

The definition of review is “to write or give a critical report on” (as well as a slew of other definitions), concerning a commentary on an available product.

If Kindle owners are peeved, because the book is not yet available in their preferred format, different forms of expressing their displeasure are available, without unreasonably affecting the quality of the work of the author.  At present, Amazon’s assesses The Big Short as worthy less than 2.5 stars, fundamentally hijacked by a preponderance of disgruntled Kindle owners.  A less technologically adept reader would instantly establish The Big Short to be an average manuscript at best. This is clearly refuted by reviewers familiar with the contents of the book (once one painfully sorts through the individual reviews, in fact eliminating the Kindle moaners.)

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#6) On March 18, 2010 at 8:09 AM, TMFBent (99.25) wrote:

The friction here is based on an old-fashion (and moreover, text-only) notion of what a review can be allowed to judge. Consider a book as you would any other product on Amazon, and it appears patently ridiculous.

Consider two products that have an identical primary characteristic (let's say, displays snizzlfrits). Everyone loves to look at their snizzefrits. They want to have their snizzlefrits available all the time. So, there is a product  that offer to display a particularly popular snizzlefrit

But it:

Can't be used by more than one viewer at once

Weighs 2 pounds instead of nothing.

Takes up 5 times the volume.

Does not allow for magnification for better viewing of the snizzlefrit.

Does not permit searching for the piece of the snizzlefrit you may want to recall.

Does not permit non-destructive note-taking about interesting snizzlefrits.

Does not permit non-destructive highlighting of interesting snizzlefrits.

Because of this, does not allow searching of notes on interesting snizzlefrits.

Does not automatically back up annotoated snizzlefrits for posterity to a remote location.

Is therefore completely gone if it is lost, soiled, burned, folded, or spindled.

Is only available if the 3-pound package is packed every time you leave the house.

Cannot be remotely delivered in 10 seconds from just about anywhere in the world, in the event it is accidentally left unpacked.


Now, consider that the same manufacturer could -- at no extra cost -- produce a product that had all those features, but refuses to provide it? And you KNOW this is the case, because there are nearly half a million other snizzlefrits available in that superior format.

Consumers would rate that snizzlefrit viewing product low, because compared to the version they know could be available, it's of very poor quality by comparison.

And there would be no "controversey" about it whatsoever, because there's no anachronistic baggage about what must determine a book review.

Sj Report this comment
#7) On March 19, 2010 at 4:09 PM, saunafool (< 20) wrote:

First, what's a Kindle?

I respect your right to give the book a bad rating, but even if he was celebrating the orgy of bad credit and mocking those who saw the steaming pile of housing bubble for what it was, it doesn't mean he is a bad writer or it is a bad book.

It's like Frank Lloyd Wright. You read about the guy and think he's a jerk. You look at that uncomfortable furniture he forced people to buy with the houses. You can think it is inconvenient and designed by an a-hole. Yet, them houses look good.

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