If Haruki Murakami's New Book Were Sold Like a Video GameS

It's easy to buy a book. It's easy to be someone who buys books. Go to the store, pay some cash, walk out with the book. Or go online, punch in your credit card info and the book comes to your door. Or maybe you just turn on your Kindle and the book is yours in moments.

It's not so easy to get a new video game. No, getting a game is a process. It lasts as long as a pregnancy and offers almost as many hassles. You can read about the rocky nature of Battlefield 3's launch or the confusion over Arkham City's online pass and raft of pre-order options for examples of this.

But another way to make this point, another way to show how good book-readers have it, is to imagine if something similar had happened with the hottest new book this season: Haruki Murakami's newest novel, 1Q84.

It started in January...

January
Are you guys as excited to finally check out Haruki Murakami's new novel 1Q84 as I am? Because boy, I am really looking forward to reading it. I've been following his work for a long time, and it sounds like this book is on a whole new level. Can't wait.

February
Oh man, at Lit-Fest 2011, Murakami's publisher Shinchosha totally stole the show! They took us to a huge theater and played a blasting recording of Ian McShane reading the second chapter of the book. It was amazing! There was all this stuff about the nature of reality, it was bleak and beautiful. Hang on, gonna go pre-order.

March
Hmm, it's been a month and I still can't decide: Should I pre-order through Amazon, or through Barnes & Noble? It looks like Amazon gets a special bonus of a foreword from the author… that would be pretty cool to read. Oh, but Barnes & Noble has a special bonus chapter in the book itself, which folds seamlessly into the narrative. Hmm. I remember preordering from Barnes & Noble once and when I went to get the book, they didn't have it.

April
Oh look at that, if I pre-order on Kindle, I get a different bonus chapter, which re-imagines 1Q84 as if it starred Kafka from Kafka on the Shore. Well that sounds cool! Aw man, hopefully I'll be able to buy all of these bonus chapters later.

May
They announced a release date! That's great. He must be almost done with the book, which is exciting. Somewhere, 1Q84 exists, and it's readable!

Hang on, my friend is telling me that in the UK, they get both bonus chapters at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but not the foreword. Wow, this is getting complicated. Hmm… I guess I'll go with Barnes & Noble, and I'll probably get it on Kindle, too?

June
Gosh am I excited about the 1Q84 Beta that's coming up! I heard that Murakami is still polishing the final book, but that he wanted to see how his distribution channels are working, and make sure that we can all get the book, that the translation is okay, and that we understand it. That's good, you want to be sure that stuff is working!

But really, I'm just excited to finally get to read some of it! I've been waiting for this book for so long, getting an advance taste will be amazing.

July
What the shit. I am pretty disappointed in this beta. This book just isn't finished! Man, there was a part in Chapter 3 where every time I turned the page, it was the same page again, over and over and over… I kept having to start over from the beginning, nothing made any sense! The translation seems off, like they're having trouble getting the words right.

I know this has been an issue with his books in the past, and that they've always worked it out, but this has me concerned. It's so close to publication—maybe the book just isn't ready?

August
Sounds like a lot of people are canceling their pre-orders. I'm gonna stick it out, though. This whole thing is so frustrating and weird, I'm sick of wondering if I'm getting the best preorder chapters. I just like Murakami, and I want to read his damn book! When did everything get so complicated?

All I know is I'm glad I'm getting the book new, since there's a whole main character who's left out of used copies. It changes the story significantly! I mean, the first chapter is even different. Not sure how I feel about that, except that I want to be sure to get those chapters in my copy.

September
The book comes out next month! I've switched my pre-order a couple of times, but wound up on Amazon, since they threw in a limited edition dust jacket if I pre-order their version.

I'm kind of exhausted about worrying about whether or not the book will be finished when I read it, and hope that even if it's messed up, Murakami will fix it afterwards by issuing some better chapters.

October
The book arrived today and, well, things have been weird. For a while, it wouldn't open—the cover seemed glued shut? So I pushed and prodded it for a while, then turned to customer support. They said they'd get back to me, but were kinda vague… I think they're overwhelmed at the moment.

Update: I looked on Twitter, and it sounds like everyone else who got the book is having the same issues. Even professional book reviewers! Wow, I thought those guys always got publisher-approved, mint-condition copies of books. Guess not.

A few people on a message board said that if you microwave the book for a certain number of seconds, it opens. Against my better judgement, I tried it, and it worked!

But even with the book open, things are still dicey. Everything's blurry, and I think there's an incompatibility with my reading glasses. Customer support says that they're sending out updated text soon, but it hasn't arrived yet. They've been so slow to respond, I'm not sure what to do. And the book keeps closing on me as I'm reading it, too. It's pretty frustrating.

Later That Week
Well, I got the new text, and the book works with my glasses. It's a pretty good book! Still shuts randomly sometimes, and some of the text is kinda garbled, but I'm sure that's just a translation thing that they'll fix eventually.

Earlier today I happened upon my old copy of After Dark, and started re-reading it. I wound up reading until like three in the morning. Man, that was a really good book.


You can contact Kirk Hamilton, the author of this post, at kirk@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.