Stephen King nixes e-book version for his latest novel

Stephen King withholds digital rights to help independent bookstores. Photo: (AP) Stephen King

DOTHAN, AL, May 21, 2013 — More than ten years after becoming one of the first novelists to embrace the e-book format, Stephen King has become one of the first novelists to reject it.

King’s book, Riding the Bullet, was published as a one of the first e-books by Simon & Schuster in 2000 and sold for $2.95. Just recently King told the Wall Street Journal that he would withhold digital rights to his upcoming novella, Joyland, to be released in early June. The book will be sold by Hard Case Crime, an independent publisher of crime fiction paperbacks with pulp-style cover artwork. Hard Case Crime also published King’s The Colorado Kid in 2005.

Ever quirky and always prolific, King can sell pretty much anything he writes in any format he wants. While there has been some speculation that his insistence on print-only for this book is just a publicity stunt, it is far more likely that he is serious in wanting to help independent bookstores.

In the mid-1990s King went off the usual tour circuit and rode his motorcycle to visit ten independent stores in small towns across the country. His last stop was Santa Cruz, CA, where he gave a talk that criticized chain stores for discounting so heavily that independents could not compete with them.

Now King is taking his battle to save independents into the digital publishing arena. He stated that he has no plans for a digital version of Joyland, but has reserved rights for a possible future e-book release. “In the meantime,” he said, “let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.” He points out that he was able to get started in his writing career because of acceptance by independent booksellers. 

King has experimented with different publishing tactics before. He was one of the first writers to bring back the concept of a serialized novel with The Green Mile in 1996. That story was done in six parts without an outline, which King claims invigorated his writing. He has several new and unique works coming out soon, including a long, eerie poem he wrote in college called The Dark Man, and a sequel to The Shining, entitled Doctor Sleep, that will be released in early September 2013.

Doctor Sleep continues the story of a now middle-age Danny Torrance, the protagonist of The Shining, trying to save a 12-year-old girl with the same gift of sight from being taken by an evil group called The True Knot. Expect publisher Simon & Schuster to roll out the book with a huge publicity campaign and most likely an e-book version along with the print version.

Apparently sales potential for that book is too great to risk limiting it to print and independent booksellers. As the saying goes, “everyone has a price.”

Quick Takes

BEA opens May 29th in NYC.
Bookexpo America, the premier event of the American publishing world, opens Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. All the major publishers will have exhibits. There will be new titles galore, as well as dozens of authors on hand to sign books. Among the authors giving talks is Neil Gaiman, who will discuss “Why Fiction is Dangerous” at 10:00 AM on Saturday. A Q&A session will follow. BEA is open to the general public.

Islamists destroy ancient texts while occupying northern Mali.
Scholars and librarians at Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu are trying to save whatever library texts they can after a devastating rampage by al Qaida-linked Islamists during their occupation of the city. Islamists claimed the works were not the authentic Qur’an because they cover not just religion, but also science, history and literature. Scholars point out that the now-destroyed manuscripts were some of Islam’s greatest treasures and existed for centuries before the senseless destruction.

Google Play adds ability to upload e-books and pdf files.
Now you can upload up to 1,000 personal e-books and pdf files to the Google cloud via Google Play. This brings us a step closer to the ability to share e-books. Files may not exceed 50MB, which should not be a problem since e-books and pdfs are far smaller than that. At the same time, Barnes & Noble has added an app for the Nook that allows users to access the Google Play service and download content. At this time it does not seem possible to upload e-books with DRM, Digital Rights Management, schemes found on commercial volumes. Stay tuned for more details.

(Visit Rick’s blog sites at and for more news and updates from the world of books and publishing.) 


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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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