The release of Stephen King's new novel Joyland last week was preceded by the author's decision to release it in hard copy only. It strikes me as a bizarre move on a number of levels and one I cannot quite get my head around. After all this was the guy who released Riding the Bullet in 2000 in e-book only. People called him a pioneer.
What has changed?
One theory is that he wants to put two fingers up at the giant e-retailers like Amazon who have been squeezing publishers' margins. Indeed when interviewed about the decision he said: "I have no plans for a digital version. Maybe at some point, but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."
But Amazon sells paperbacks too. Joyland is available there – here is the link. There is no onus on people to walk into a Waterstones and buy one over the counter. Perhaps there is some clever pricing stuff going on behind the scenes but it seems to me the only people losing out are those using e-readers. What has Mr. King got against them (us)?
Another theory of course is that this is all a marketing ploy as dark (and about as subtle) as one of his horror novels. The decision attracted more column inches than his publisher could have dreamt for from a regular release. Perhaps I am being cynical. Perhaps I am just jealous how my namesake can dictate his terms to the industry whilst I offer people my book for free in the hope that they will write a good review. But I smell a rat.
Don't get me wrong, the guy talks a lot of sense when it comes to writing and publishing. His book On Writing was the single most important thing I read when I started taking writing seriously. But he knows the industry backwards. Can this all really be an ideological thing?
He's so successful it really could be. But I doubt it.