Book Gadget v0.72

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why I Disagree with Stephen King and Will Continue to Publish E-Books


A few days ago, bestselling author Stephen King took the world by surprise when he announced that his latest book, Joyland, would only be available on paper.
 
"…let people stir their sticks and go to an actual
bookstore rather than a digital one."
This news came as a shock to me.  Stephen King has always been one of my heroes, a rather wise and clear-thinking representative of those two special groups of people called "readers" and "writers."   He is also one of the individuals who I considered to be a pioneer in electronic publishing, breaking new ground in 2000 by posting an e-book that was downloadable from his own website, and—a year later—becoming the first mainstream author to publish a novel solely as an e-book.

I'm confused, Mr. King.  

First, based on your comments to The Wall Street Journal, there seems to be an anti-technology undertone in your words.  When asked how your devoted readers can get your new book, you said "…let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."

With all due respect, Mr. King, my "stick" is doing just fine and does not need stirring.  If you're implying that technology is somehow "bad," I don't agree.  I love my tablet and smart phone and e-books every bit as much as you loved your ragged, dog-eared paperback books as a kid.    If you are implying that technology is making everyone fat and lazy, well, there may be some truth in that...but is there anything more sedentary than the mere act of reading itself?   

The second reason I'm confused, Mr. King, is that there seems to be some sort of political motivation behind your decision, a "Save the Paper Books!" mentality, something akin to saving the whales. Paper books are not an endangered biological species—they are the result of technological advancements that took place a few centuries ago, which some folks resisted, just as some resist the transition to e-books today.  If you want to get political about this issue, it seems to me that a "Save the Trees!" campaign makes a lot more sense.  

But the main reason I'm confused is that, as one of your loyal readers, your unexpected decision has a significant impact on me—a negative one.   I don't currently live in the United States and it will be weeks before I can get your new book.  The fastest way, despite your best intentions, will be for me to order it online, not go to a physical bookstore.  I resent the fact that I will not be able to push a button and have it the same day that it hits the bookshops in New York City.  I also resent the fact that you are trying to force me to read your book in a certain format—paper—instead of the format that I'm now comfortable with and is most convenient for me—e-books.

I'm the author of over 20 thriller and suspense novels, and I will continue to publish in electronic form across all the e-reading platforms so that my fans can have access to my books as quickly and as easily as possible. 

17 comments:

  1. I think he has a romantic point of view. I agree to the chance of e-book publishing for authors and readers. But there is one point, why a bookstore is better as a digital one. In the internet, they show you just the books which "are like the books you read before". In a bookstore you will see more different types, maybe you get to read the first page of one book, you never wanted to read.But it could be a great experience.
    The internet just shows you "stuff that is like the stuff you have read". So i do not think he acts in a buiseness way, just in an old, romantic way, about stories and paper books.(I am from germany so excuse my shitty english)

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  2. Ah the Dendrophile. I suppose he thinks we will all go to the independent bookstores rather than the chains as well. Unlikely. I am with you. In fact, I just had my first novella printed. I've been all electronic until now, and expect I will be. Particularly in the area of erotica, being able to have a nondescript e-reader in hand beats a bodice ripper cover or one easily identified (like 50 shades).

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  3. As a reader. I agree with Mr. King’s decision to maintain the fundamental format. Personally, I love reading an actual paper book, rather than an e-book. It has a different feel to it. I also agree with Mr. Wells. An e-book collection it’s much easier to store, more accessible to buy, and while traveling you have your library with you. (I guess I love choices). As A writer. I am publishing my work on e format. It is more affordable, and a writer can reach more readers. I am finishing volume one of “The Elementals and The Gabriel Files”, and both will be published on paper and e format, and of course I’ll continue doing so.

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  4. I love to feel a book in my hand, even the smell. I miss my favorite book store that went out of business. I used to sit there for hours order my coffee and read. I liked that if it wasn't very interesting, I could put it back and try out others. I hope that I don't have to buy a e-book.

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  5. I don't feel that Stephen King was implying that e-books are bad or that technology is bad. I think he was just making a statement that with this book, he'd like to release it as a print-only version, which to me is no different from how some books are released as e-only. He has his own reasons that I'm sure do involve hoping to get more traffic into brick and mortar stores, but I don't think he is trying to thumb his nose at readers who prefer digital. I think he's making one move for one book to try to support bookstores that are hurting...no more, no less.

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  6. I feel you're confused because you're taking a different message than the one Mr. King is trying to send. He's not doing it because he's anti-technology. As you've cited, his actions over the course of his career have more than shown this. He's also not malicious. He knew it would inconvenience some readers when he made the decision, and he made the decision despite that awareness, because he felt if people received his intended message it would do much more good than the harm of a little inconvenience to some readers. He did it to send a much more benevolent message, one that does not deserve to be overlooked or misconstrued. Like you, I respect him as a wise man, and when we know someone is wise, we'd be remiss to overlook their wisdom when it happens to be critical of something we love.

    Mr. King is one of the few authors in the world who can afford to do what he is doing. He's not, however, the only one who would love to do it. As it stands, some ebook readers are oblivious to the damage ebook sales, particularly self-pub ebook sales, do to many writers' livelihoods. Damage caused by the decline of print books, and by the competition of cheap ebooks, often held to no reasonable standard of quality whatsoever. Many readers don't know the difference. Mr. King hopes, I think, that if readers hear what he's done, they will become more aware of the real reasons he's made this choice. He's hoping to remind them of the authors who write the books they love. To point out that those authors, like yourself, deserve to earn a living that will pay their mortgage and feed their kids rather than leave them struggling to keep their 30-year-old car working well enough to get them to their third job each day. Because, frankly, I think all good writers' work is worth more than 99 cents.

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  7. Hi, Mike, remember me??? Think back to January of this year...and you may recall me. You helped me turn a negative into a positive by replying to a tweet: "You have a large capacity to learn"...

    Well, I am here, about four months later, to tell you that I have not one, but TWO blogs now, and I wanted to let you know how right you were...and to thank you for your great posts about writing.

    I appreciate your point of view on the whole e-book issue. Apparently Mr. King did not get that memo. Hmmm. Maybe he just doesn't want the sales? How selfish of him. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

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  8. As much as I love paper books, I love ebooks, still I do not think this particular debate is the actual issue there.

    When Mr. King took a stance on ebooks, they were rare. Now his publishing of ebooks swims in an ocean of publishing and self publishing where making your own virtual pond stand out is increasingly hard no matter the "brand" of the author.

    Is it not possible that it is a relatively simple case of drawing attention, very similar to that earlier action of putting an ebook on a website?

    Still, to put something on the table, personally I do not think there has to be such a debate on ebook versus real book. Last year I mentioned a few thoughts on experiences in that direction - http://desertsofman.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/from-paperback-to-the-ebook-consumable/ - and I have to say that trend (at least on this end of the ocean) is continuing. It is a bit of a shame to not see more authors or publishers stateside pick up on it, but when I browse around the amazing bookstores here in Europe I increasingly see them treating ebooks as consumables with offer links to the "real" books. It matches my own behaviour in reading and buying as well. If there is one concern I have, it is that in that trend I find myself increasingly wishing that we had more than a mere 24 hours in a day :P Too little time to keep up with what I want to read ...

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  9. I haven't read the article in which Mr. King made his statement. But what else did he say? It could well be this is a contractual stipulation forced upon him by his publisher. Publishers do stupid stuff. Even the mighty Stephen King cannot break the rules of the contract he signed.

    I read exclusively on my Kindle Fire. I do miss paper books. But I love the ease of accessibility of purchasing new books. I'm overseas at present and I can still buy and read ebooks from Amazon whenever I need to. I finished a novel last night and am deciding which novel I will read next. So it's a blessing that I have the whole of Amazon in which to shop. My own novels are available in ebook format. I'm making Eye Candy available in paperback. But it's going to be almost $20. And that's with me making only a couple bucks per copy. So, yeah, I love ebooks.

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    1. Take a look at CreateSpace.com. I went a different route on my first novel and the cover price ended up being $14.95 of which I was receiving $0.25 a copy. I have since re-released it on CreateSpace for $9.95 and I will be receiving around $2.00 a copy.

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  10. I'd like to think Mr. King is trying to get folks back to the smaller books store in an effort to stop them from all closing. Can he do it with one book? No, but if other authors get on the bandwagon, just maybe some can be saved.

    I have published my novels both in hard copy and electronic. I read both hard copy and electronic, but I have to admit, although extremely convenient, ebooks do not give me as much joy as actually holding a book in my hand. They just seem to be missing something.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Christina, and for the comments of all the people who have posted above. About your comment regarding CreateSpace, Christina, not sure I understand your point. Publishing on CreateSpace or any other self-publishing platform will not get your book into bookstores. Due to severe shelf-space restrictions, bookstores rarely carry books by indie authors, and as they continue to close, shelf space becomes even more scarce. Yes, readers can go to the bookstore and order your book, but why would they bother? The bookstore is just going to order it from Amazon (their only option for a CreateSpace book), and not very enthusiastically, since Amazon is partly what is putting them out of business. So the customer may as well just order the book from Amazon himself/herself. In short, I don't see how publishing on CreateSpace will help save bookstores.

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  11. I'm not an avid King reader - so my input to this is purely personal: I buy massive amounts of books - in eBook form because they are easy to store - and paper for those I know I want to read often... I have limited storage space for my babies - and I want them all to be handy - easy to loan to others and grab off the shelf when I want them.

    eBooks have increased my book buying - and my ability to support authors who do what I love...

    It just doesn't seem logical to me.

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  12. What is left for these big name authors (Patterson and now King) who have "made it" to rail against? Paper v. digital? Guess they need some kind of cause.

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  13. Well, one theory is pretty simple--they have "made it" on paper books and indie authors are coming in and selling ebooks at a much cheaper price point, undercutting them and their publishers. Seems only natural they would be threatened by this, but maybe I'm wrong....

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  14. I rarely agree with anything Stephen King says. And he's getting to be more of a self-caricature by the moment.

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  15. I'm a fan of e-books for the portability and storage. I can have a whole library at my fingertips anytime, and I love that. I still love paper books as well, and I will nostalgically miss the bookstores I have loved through the years, but "the times they are a changin." Nothing anyone says is going to change that. I hope books continue to be printed in small quantities and stored in archives in case of the destruction of society. I'd hate for all our work to disappear into thin air if the internet ever fails. But I am also a tree-loving conservationist and hope that paper will be made from more renewable resources like hemp. So many things to debate and argue about, and each of us has to follow our own path. Good article Mike, this one would be a good discussion for linked-in.

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