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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

Auletta, Amazon and the Death of Publishing

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Back in the early 1990s when I worked for The New York Post, there was a sense that The New York Times daily coverage of the city wasn’t all that it could be and what they did — which drove competitors crazy — was they might ignore a story for a couple of days and the come out with these long, comprehensive pieces that included everything, including the kitchen sink.

And that’s kind of how I feel about Ken Auletta’s new piece in The New Yorker that asks the question, “Can the IPad topple the Kindle and save the book business?”

If you haven’t read it, it is worth the time because even if he doesn’t have a lot that’s new, he pretty much has everything that others (including me) have written.

Reading it, though, I realized that I think it might have been a more interesting read if Auletta had taken the opposite track — asking not whether Apple can save publishing but exploring whether Amazon can kill publishers.

Auletta quotes a “close associate” of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as saying,”What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.”

It’s not a new concern.

Last December when Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People announced he was shifting his digital rights to Amazon from his traditional publisher, Simon and Schuster, for a year, the New York Times led off by saying:

“Ever since electronic books emerged as a major growth market, New York’s largest publishing houses have worried that big-name authors might sign deals directly with e-book retailers or other new ventures, bypassing traditional publishers entirely.”

Then, in January, Amazon announced a plan allowing authors who give their exclusive e-book rights to Amazon to earn 70 percent royalty.

That was followed five days later by Ian McKewan shifting the e-rights to five of his books to Amazon, doubling his usual royalty as became the first big-name British author to sign on.

And, of course, there’s Stephen King, the kind of author who perhaps symbolizes the greatest threat to traditional publishers.

When the second version of the Kindle was announced, King read from a novella he wrote specifically to be distributed through the device.

It was such a success that a couple of weeks ago, he released a second story, created just for the Kindle.

And it’s not just the big names like King and Covey.

Galleycat, the publishing blog, recently interviewed mystery writer JA Kornath, who is making quite a nice living selling for the Kindle.

So, will Amazon prove to be the death of publishing? Will the IPad save it?

Probably no and no, though they are already clearly having an effect.

And, as I’ve pointed out before, until we figure out how to make sure there are enough devices for every student in every school to be able to get one, we need to make sure there are printed books out there for people to read.

Old Forms and New Directions

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 at 8:44 am
Johannes Gutenberg

Image via Wikipedia

Some 570 years or so after Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type — giving birth to modern printing — people are still buying books.

And while the technology has improved somewhat over the centuries, the basic concept is the same — books are printed (though in numbers that probably would have staggered Gutenberg’s mind) and people buy them.

Numbers released last week by Publisher’s Weekly show this is still the case.

It was the recap of the best sellers of 2009 and it showed that in this age of distraction, with movies, television, video games and life moving at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, people are still going to the store (or their computer) and ordering books.

Presumably, some of the books are also actually read.

Dan Brown followed up the monumental success of The Da Vinci Code with the monumental success of The Lost Symbol, selling more than 5.5 million copies in hardcover to make it the best selling novel of 2009. While there aren’t exact numbers around, it does appear that he sold more copies than the next few books on the list combined.

As expected, the list is filled with the familiar named authors of blockbusters (John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Stephen King), and the usual group of literary best-sellers such as Barbara Kingsolver, Philippa Gregory, EL Doctorow and John Irving.

What’s really interesting about the list — as the LA Times pointed out — is that this is the last year it won’t include ebooks, which raises the possibility that next year a classic like Alice in Wonderland could make an appearance.

Which sort of leads to the purpose of this blog’s new direction — to look at the business and culture of print from the “death” of newspapers to the future of books. It will mix news of how and what we read with occasional reviews and stories about interesting new projects and people moving in new directions.

There’s been a lot of talk about how ebooks will change the way we read and write and while things like the Kindle and IPad will make a difference — it remains to be seen how big and how soon.

It does seem, however, that while ebooks have actually been around for almost 40 years, that we are appoaching a tipping point of sorts.

The Guardian pointed out that last year was the first time that Amazon sold more ebooks than printed books.

What changes are coming up? How will we be reading? Who will be writing? Stay tuned.