In a previous edition of this textbook, we wrote about Stephen King and his decision to publish a new serial novel, The Plant, online. The chapters were available only through his website, which used a “pay what you want” pricing scheme. As we wrote then, more than 100,000 people downloaded the first chapter, and 76 percent of them paid the fee through the honor system King established.
It was a creative move back in 2000. Today though, King is making a bold move in the absolute opposite direction: His upcoming novel Joyland will only be available in brick-and-mortar stores. By retaining the publishing rights for the electronic version, King is dictating how and when readers can find the novel. And he has added that he has no plans to offer an e-book version anytime soon.
King’s motives are transparent. He wants more people to visit bookstores, he seeks to support the importance of in-person booksellers, and he hopes to spur purchases in the struggling print industry. In these choices, King seems to be playing something of a Robin Hood. In 2000, he sought to boost the new e-book market. Today, e-books earn publishers approximately $3 billion annually in revenues, a per-year increase of around 44 percent. However, traditional and independent booksellers are struggling, so King has shifted his focus to helping them boost their sales too.
Such moves really are possible only by an author as well-known and popular as King. But even the venerable author apparently recognizes the need to hedge his bets a little. At the same time that he makes his risky print-only move, the sequel to King’s famous novel The Shining will be released this year. The long-awaited Doctor Sleep is being published by a much larger publishing house than the one introducing Joyland. As a result, the rights for the different versions of this book remain with the publisher, rather than the author, and we should expect to find it both on shelves and on e-book sites.
Source: Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, “Stephen King Says No to E-Book, to Scare Up Business,” The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2013