Stephen King takes a stand against ebooks

by Public Libraries on May 21, 2013

Kindle Books

Stephen King, one of the best-selling authors of our time, was once considered to be a pioneer in the world of digital books. Now, he’s taking a stand in the book industry and will not be releasing his latest novel “Joyland” in digital form. King claims that he is withholding the digital rights in order to take a stand against the ebook industry and inspire readers to buy physical books again.

“Joyland” is a classic coming-of-age story that is set in 1973 at an American amusement park, and as anything King writes, is expected to resonate with his fans. This book will be available in stores on June 4, but people who rely strictly on their Kindles and iPads to read will be disappointed that they can’t download their copy in an instant. King told the Wall Street Journal on May 19 that he has no intention of releasing the digital rights anytime in the immediate future. He noted that one day he might release the rights, but for now he wants people to head to their local bookstores to buy their copy of his latest novel.

It’s a move that will surely be appreciated by the local bookstores that are struggling in downtown areas all across America. Between giant warehouses like Amazon and the ebook revolution, hometown bookstores have had a rough time in the last decade. They can’t compete with the prices of Amazon and other online book retailers who sell books at a significant discount, and they can’t provide the same ease-of-use that tablets and ereaders offer the end user.

In a way, King’s decision is a bit ironic. It’s been 13 years now since he released a digital-only copy of one of his books. In 2000, digital books were all but unheard of, and King decided he would help get people talking about this new technology by releasing a strictly digital form of his recent release at the time, “Riding the Bullet.” At the time, King was one of the first authors to release a digital-only book and therefore is considered one of the pioneers of the ebook industry.

King’s protest of the ebook industry comes at a time when the digital book industry is hitting an all-time high. Recent reports show that the industry grew by 44 percent from 2011 to 2012. According to results from BookStats that were published in the Wall Street Journal, the ebook industry generated about $3 billion in revenue in 2012.

Those who watch the book industry, and in particular the ebook industry, will be taking note of this relatively monumental move. Experts are not sure if any other authors will do the same, or if King will be alone in withholding his digital rights for new releases. Even more interesting is the fact that King has another book set to be released this fall which is getting more hype. It has not yet been announced whether this long-awaited novel, titled “Doctor Sleep,” will be available in digital form.

{ 4 comments }

Phyllis Humphrey May 21, 2013 at 11:19 am

Stepehen King is being loyal to his publisher, which is a nice thing and very unselfish, because he could make ten times more money by going Indie. But he’s been the “king” of authors and treated like royalty. If he’d been treated like 99% of trad-published authors, he’d be as disenchanted as they are, and, like them, opt for control over covers, pricing, release dates and marketing. And, incidentally more money. When his latest book doesn’t do well – and it won’t because lots of us will never buy another King novel – he’ll see the light. Bye, bye, Stephen. If I want to read your book, I’ll borrow it at the library.

Louis "Buddy" Hale June 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Thanks to Stephen King for his advocacy of physical books. “More money” is a theme that occurs too prominently and too frequently in the world view of too many people. I believe Mr. King, among others, is simply and gently suggesting that we step back from the edge of the abyss/money pit and think about who benefits from this overly-emphasized, artificially-imposed, potentially suicidal economic St. Vitus dance in which so many of us find ourselves swept up.

René Allen June 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm

BRAVO to Stephen King! There is nothing like a physical book in hand, and the turning of pages. Hopefully more Authors will do the same.

René Allen

eBook Reader July 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

Selfish much? Just because YOU prefer physical books doesn’t mean everyone does. This is an exceptionally rude and short-sighted move by King. What about my arthritic grandmother whose hands are too weak to hold a physical book, but can prop a lightweight iPad up on a pillow and swipe to turn the pages? What about folks who have bad eyesight, or are legally blind, and depend on a tablet/eReader’s ability to increase type size and contrast? Do these folks not deserve the ability to read his books?

Local bookstores are grand, but if they can’t keep their prices competitive, that doesn’t bode well for their business. In today’s economy, no one can, or wants to, shell out an extra $5 or more just to support a local business.

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