One of the most financially successful authors in history, Stephen King, decided to make his new book, Joyland, available in print only. Joyland, which is a throwback to the pulp novels of mid-century, will have to be read on a page rather than on a screen.
In a press release, King said, “I loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.”
By confirming his decision as an aesthetic one, King has made the decision that reading the book as an actual paperback is key to his vision. Authors often take liberties with presentation of their work, some maximizing experimentation, while others don’t even bother to have chapter breaks. But, by limiting the circulation of his book, King wishes to create an aura that he believes doesn’t come with an eBook. It’s not that King is a Luddite, either. He was one of the first authors to embrace eBooks when he released Riding the Bullet, a digital-only novella, in 2000.
So what advantages are there to choosing one medium and not the other? If you’re looking to create a certain aesthetic to a work, like King, maybe a pulpy paperback is the only way to release your book. If your book is about the information age or utilizes a considerable amount of outside material and hyperlinks, then maybe an eBook is the only way to go. Still, it doesn’t necessarily help to wed yourself to one format. A lot of potential readers might not have made the jump to digital yet, and by only publishing an eBook, an author stands to alienate a sizable audience. Realistically though, the cost of publishing an eBook is much lower, and even large publishers are now taking the Print-On-Demand approach to publishing — only printing a physical book according to actual demand.
If King does decide to release Joyland digitally, it will be interesting to see if it is met with the same enthusiasm as his past works. But then again, if King truly believes that the format of the novel is essential to his vision, it might just stay an old-fashioned book.
What are your thoughts?