Embrace the e-book, Stephen King. It is not for an author to tell his readers how to read

The blockbuster author has announced his publishers will only be allowed to issue his latest novel in paper form; I wonder what he would have made of the first paperback?


On Tuesday night in New York, Khaled Hosseini launched his new novel And the Mountains Echoed at Barnes & Noble in Union Square. As my colleague and I left the event, we encountered a great serpentine queue of people sitting and standing in the corridors of the bookshop, determined to get their books signed – to get their brief moment with the author they loved. They caught sight of our UK edition of the book and couldn’t believe their eyes. With its exotic plumage of blues and purples, it looked so very different from its more sober American counter part.

I’ve been pondering this scene in the light of the announcement by Stephen King that his publishers can issue his new novel only in paper form. They are not allowed to publish an ebook.

What I witnessed in New York showed the power of the book as physical object, yet I have to ask – is it now for an author to tell his publishers, but more importantly his readers, how they are allowed to read his peerless prose? Perhaps Mr King will require that they read in hardback only, in an edition bound in vellum with uncut pages?

Perhaps he imagines that this bold, retrograde move will single-handedly rescue the book trade from its current parlous state? That new bookshops will spring up full of cheery customers rushing to buy books? The fact is that Amazon will still be king for Mr King, whether his books are published in hardback, paperback or on an electronic cloud.

At Bloomsbury, we publish as many books as we can in all English language markets. Many of our ebooks have been unavailable in print for years, but are now accessible to readers once again. Because surely it matters not one bit how people read. A tomato is still a tomato, whichever way you pronounce it.

In America, people buy hardbacks in quantity. In Australia, they don’t want hardbacks at all. Would Stephen King want his Australian audience to read hardbacks when they plainly don’t want them? In China, books are read in huge quantities on mobile phones. So this is to be forbidden? Surely what’s really important is that people do read.

For all that I love and adore the actual, beautiful physical thing of a book, I can only applaud anything that makes reading easier, more democratic. It would be as if Stephen King, had he written in the 1940s, were to tell Allen Lane that his invention of the paperback was not to be tolerated. On that hot New York night, the only thing that mattered was that there were hundreds of people of all ages, races and classes waiting to see a writer who had touched their hearts and their souls. Who had spoken to them, and of them. That is what it is all about, Mr King.

Alexandra Pringle is Editorial Director of Bloomsbury

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
Alexandra Pringle
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions