When Joyland, Stephen King’s latest horror novel, was announced in 2012 the publisher and Mr King made a big deal about only releasing it in paper. And when it was published in June 2013, Mr King stuck to his guns and insisted that he wanted people to read the book on paper.
Mr King gave a number of different reasons for not releasing an ebook, including wanting to support bookstores and wanting readers to have the traditional reading experience.
None of that matters any more, because I’ve just learned that Joyland will soon be available digitally. The ebook edition will be out on 8 April, and it is up for pre-order at Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and other ebook sites.
Or perhaps I should say the legal ebook edition is coming out next month. A pirated version of this book was posted only days after the print edition was released in June 2013; multiple enthusiastic fans scanned the book and posted their work online.
There’s a lesson here.
Mr King has at times been both the vanguard and the rearguard of the digital age. He was one of the first to release a commercial ebook. He is widely credited for sparking interest in ebooks in 2000 with the digital release of Riding the Bullet, which was available at Amazon, B&N, and other sites. That ebook saw hundreds of thousands of downloads in the first day, and it is probably what encouraged B&N to launch an ebookstore in partnership with Microsoft that year and for Amazon to launch their ebookstore in late 2000.
He was also one of the first to attempt to crowd fund a serial novel, The Plant. This latter project was financially successful (it generated over half a million dollars) but was ended early because not enough readers paid.
And today Mr King is among the rearguard. Joyland reminds us that even a famous author can’t actually control the digital release of his books; the ebook was released despite his disapproval. Like JK Rowling and Lucía Etxebarria, Stephen King might claim a copyright and he might claim moral rights over his work but actual control is a fiction.