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?

Share

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

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'