Stephen King and I in perfect accord, did he but know it!

09 +00002013-05-22T18:34:05+00:0031 2012 § 10 Comments

From The Times May 22nd 2013

From The Times May 22nd 2013

I’m not really a Stephen King fan – horror isn’t my bag – although I admire his dedication as a writer. He himself has said that his writing gave him the will to live when he was seriously injured in a car accident in 1999. I have read a couple of his books – Carrie and one other whose title escapes me – and I can appreciate his work enough to see why it is compelling. He’s a true professional.

However, he managed to annoy me very seriously in the year 2000 (He was quite unaware of this, of course!) when he published Riding the Bullet, a short story, as an e-book and sold it from his own website. He sold more than 5,000 copies in twenty-four hours, which allowed him to claim that the role of the publisher was becoming defunct as digital publishing took hold. He took into account neither the fact that he had been supported patiently by his publisher through his early years as a writer nor that he had sold so many copies of Riding the Bullet because he was Stephen King; it was not a feat that any author could replicate.

I was therefore delighted to read in today’s Times that he has not only decided not to release the digital rights for his latest book, Joyland, but is also encouraging his fans to buy their print copies from bookshops (as opposed to online booksellers). “Support your local bookshop” seems to be his new mantra. On that point, Stephen King and I are in perfect accord. I’m sure that he’ll be relieved that I approve!

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§ 10 Responses to Stephen King and I in perfect accord, did he but know it!

  • Autumn says:

    It makes sense from a genre perspective: JOYLAND is a Hard Case crime novel, and traditionally part of the joy of those books has been the ‘cheap, crappy paperback’ feel of them–literal pulp fiction. Mr. King is nothing if not attuned to the nuances of writing and publishing–I find him fascinating from that perspective (as well as as for his dialogue and characterizations)! I don’t think he’s scorning e-books in general (though I have to admit to a bias against them myself), but it’s a nice tip of the hat to actual BOOKS.

  • vallypee says:

    Christina, as you know I have not been in accord with Stephen King myself about some of what he has said and written although I admire his courage and determination to pursue his writing against many personal odds. I am not a fan of his fiction – like you, I do not like horror – but he is immensely popular and I believe you are right in saying that he was only able to sell the number of e-books he did in such a short space of time because he is Stephen King. But someone from the print publishing world believed in him once and gave him his first break (I forget who it was, but it’s in his book), and it would be nice to think he is remembering that now. It is good to hear him supporting print books from bookshops. Who knows, with his influence, he might even boost bookshop sales?

    • You know from my various posts and comments about bookselling that this is a subject very close to me and (forgive the cliché ) dear to my heart. Having spent much of my life in bookselling, I appreciate the willingness of any author to support bookshops and to value, by implication or explicit comment, the work of their excellent staff. Someone of his stature is, I believe, well able to use his influence to good effect!
      Thanks, as always, Valerie, for your very considered comment. 🙂

  • I do love new technology but can’t bring myself to touch an e-reader. The joy of turning the page of a book cannot be recreated. Also, I have picked up many a pre-loved book in a charity shop that I otherwise wouldn’t have know about. Long live the book.

    • I’m not opposed to ebooks; they have their place and time and I do use e-readers. What we cannot replicate in a meaningful way is the range and depth of the human resource that we call a bookseller, as I have posted here before. Most of my reading is from books and my greatest pleasure is to browse in a bookshop, engage with booksellers and carry out the books I have bought; the more people who keep bookshops alive, the better!
      Thank you for your very personal response; you are very welcome here. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    Good news indeed, and so he jolly-well should.

    I work in technology, have done for twenty five years, I spend my working hours trawling the internet for the Bad Guys, when I come home at night I want real books, on paper, that I can curl up with, I want to escape the sinister side of the virtual world and I do not want to have to deal with ‘virtual words’.

    And what happens when technology breaks, as it always does?

    And have you read some of the total trash that’s self-published?

    Apologies, I have strong feelings on this subject

    • Hello, Julia! You don’t need to apologise for having a rant about something that is important to you. I can well imagine your desire to switch off metaphorically and literally when you get home… and there’s no better way than with a good book. I have heard it said that ebook readers and bathtime don’t mix very well! 😉
      As for self-published books, it’s true that rigour is not always applied, though there are some determined writers out there who do recognise that there is much more to getting a book into shape than just writing!
      Lovely of you to take the trouble to comment; you’re very welcome here. 🙂

  • littlelise says:

    As a fan of Stephen King, I find myself surprised by his change of attitude. I know that he penned a short story exclusively for the launch of kindle – the name if it escapes me, but it was about a pink kindle with demonic powers (typical!) – and so I find his u-turn utterly amazing.
    I am not sure where I stand on the whole ebook debate. I feel they serve a purpose for community projects – I am in the process of creating an ebook anthology for a local primary school. Had I chosen the traditional route, no publisher in their right mind would take on the project as it is not commercially viable. As for publishers, they cannot have it both ways – publish on multiple formats whilst bemoaning the lack of support for booksellers. Once again, a thought provoking post!

    • Thanks, Lisa, and welcome back. I can’t account for his apparent u-turn, but he may be concerned about the obvious difficulties faced by bookshops in the current online climate. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying about publishers: it isn’t publishers who are bemoaning the lack of support for booksellers, but, in this case, it’s Stephen King! What is really important is that publishing is not about format, but about getting content out to as wide an audience as possible; publishers aren’t printers, but are engaged in ensuring quality and dissemination. Hope that clarifies it a bit!

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