Skip to content

Famous Authors Boycott E-books, Nameless Reader Boycotts Authors

July 1, 2012


Picture of a rally in Chicago, part of the Gre...

When a nameless reader boycotts something, it doesn’t look like this. It looks like a guy at home on his couch watching television and reading at the same time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Are e-readers turning book lovers into e-vil readers? 

Ugh.  I just punched myself in the face. 

Authors Richard Russo and Stephen King have announced plans to make some of their new releases unavailable to online stores (like Amazon) or on e-readers. 

Richard Russo (author of Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002) is releasing a new book Interventions, but he is not allowing his book to be purchased online or on e-readers.  Stephen King is doing the same thing with his soon(?)-to-be-released Joyland. 

This means that if you want to read Interventions or Joyland you may actually have to buy (or borrow) a real book at a bookstore or library and then turn real pages. Both authors say that they are going e-bookless with these releases because of their love for actual books.  

Maybe an actual book with pages is morally (too strong a word) superior to an e-version, but part of me is annoyed that Russo and King (and maybe some publishing companies) would want to limit my choices in reading format.  The e-reader has completely changed the way I read.  I read more in bed, on the stationary bike, in grocery store lines, at traffic lights (I’m kidding!).  I can plow through more books than I used to. I can read more book samples at my convenience without purchasing them (something authors, publishers, and stores might not like). 

I like having the choice of book formats.  When I’m sitting in an airport, I’d rather have my e-reader than a stack of books to keep me occupied.  When I’m moving from house to house, grabbing a couple tablets is way easier than packing and unpacking (or paying somebody else to pack and unpack) a couple storage rooms full of books. 

I love the e-reader.  In fact, I love the e-reader more than I love any single author. 

Russo also says he wants to help local bookstores, and that sounds noble, but I didn’t know there were any local bookstores anymore.  I live in a major U.S. city, and our local booksellers are Barnes & Noble and… and… a few used bookstores.  What I consider “local” bookstores are mostly gone.  I think Russo is about five to ten years too late to save local bookstores.  When Empire Falls won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, maybe he should have banned his books from Borders and Barnes &Noble.  I’m guessing (with no proof) that those chains killed off more local bookstores than e-readers and Amazon have.  

If Russo and Stephen King want to limit my choices, that’s fine.  I can limit my choices too.  If an author doesn’t want his book available electronically, that’s his/her right, but I probably won’t buy that book.  To be fair, I never would have bought Russo’s new book anyway, and I haven’t bought a Stephen King book in over 20 years, so they lose nothing by alienating (too strong a word) me. 


Empire Falls by Richard Russo (not quite a review) 

Since I’ve made some comments about Richard Russo, I decided to read his Pulitzer Prize winning novel Empire Falls (I don’t need to read any more Stephen King books).  The good news is that I am reading an actual book, not the e-version, so Richard Russo would be happy.  The bad news is that I checked it out from the library, so Russo gets no money from me.  The other bad news is that I’m traveling soon, and Empire Falls is kind of big (about 800 pages), so I’m leaving it at home while I take my e-readers (filled with books that I’ve paid for) with me, and none of them will have Empire Falls on them. 

I’ll finish Empire Falls when I get back.  It’s pretty good so far.

  1. In other news, NASCAR drivers are refusing to race in cars because they want to help the buggy whip manufacturers…. Oh, wait. They’re not that stupid.

    • Great reply!…why is it that race car drivers are smarter authors? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? (Really, not spitting on race car drivers, just sayin’ they know their audience.)

    • If I ever win a Pulitzer, I think I may publish a book where every copy is handwritten (by somebody else, not me)so that I can boycott all the publishing companies that use a printing press of some kind. I think I need to think this through a little bit.

  2. You can’t stand against the rising tide forever. This is easy for King, he’s Stephen King and not a new or aspiring writer who needs to use every platform out there to sell books. In the long run, this only hurts those who no longer have bookstores due to closings. I’ll be interested to see how this works out for the two authors.

    • If it doesn’t work that well, they can always change their minds. You’re right, it will be interesting to see if any other authors or publishing companies try this.

  3. Reblogged this on paralaxvu and commented:
    I wouldn’t have an ebook if it weren’t for Christmas presents…but now that I have one I’d be hard pressed to give it up. This blogpost says it all–or almost all..I als like the fact that I don’t have to drag around my dictionary to learn new words…unless, of course, these authors aren’t going to use any new words…

  4. Personally, I think it’s a bit too early in the revolution to feel the need to make a hard-line choice. The popularity of e-books is climbing very quickly, but the popularity of “real” books is not declining at an equal pace. So for anybody (author or reader) to feel the need to choose one over the other is, in my opinion, premature. I don’t think “real” books will be completely replaced by ebooks for quite a while which means that there is still time to capitalize on both markets.
    Indie authors like you and me are in a uniquely powerful position over King and his peers because we don’t have big publishing houses banking on sales of our books to justify huge signing deals – therefore nobody loses anything if we publish in both arenas.
    It’s win/win for us and the readers.
    I would guess that the boycott by King and Russo was not their own idea…in fact, I’d bet that neither of them really gives a shit…they were probably begged to do it by their publishers.
    I don’t own an e-reader yet and I won’t until they’re more affordable (or I make more money) but I appreciate their increasing popularity…I just don’t think the book is ready to join eight-track tapes and commodore 64 game systems just yet.
    (oh – and you forgot to mention Books-A-Million – I believe there’s one in your town)

    • I was going to write a smug reply about how my home city doesn’t have a BAM, but I looked it up, and we have two of them (one of them I’ve probably driven past a few times and have never noticed). Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to go check it out.

      • I tried to get my first novel on their shelves – they made me send them a copy and after six weeks of “review” they told me they didn’t accept independently published novels.

  5. I re-blogged this on mine. with a few comments. The more people read this, the better. Of course, I have a paltry 48 followers, but that’s maybe 48 who wouldn’t otherwise know about Msrs. Russo and King.

  6. I am not an avid reader by any stretch of the imagination. Add to that fact, I am not a fast reader. When I check a book out from the library, I typically have to check it out again and/or pay an overdue fine. That said, I am reading more now – with my eReader – than I did prior to purchasing my eReader. I am reading more, and I am finding more time to read.
    I still enjoy holding actual books, and I will still use the library from time to time, as well as purchase books. As much as I love my eReader, I will always love the feel and smell of an actual book. And thanks to the eReader I want more of both.

  7. unfetteredbs permalink

    Publishers are getting greedy with the e-books. I am happy to see the authors fighting back. Publishers have raised the prices almost three fold on ebooks for libraries. Something has to give..

  8. Lucky for me, I’m not interested in reading Russo or King. I’ve read Empire Falls…boooringgg.
    I agree with another commenter, it’s too early in the game for them to make such a hard stand. I love my e-reader but I still buy books too. When I want to read a self pub or small pub, I buy the e-book, when I want to read traditional pub, I purchase the book. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m not paying $8+ for a virtual book.
    Great post!

  9. jimcolv permalink

    Ah yes, the paradox of business, creativity and intellectual property. I don’t think this has much to do with “saving local bookstores” at all. It is an attempt to squeeze the last bit of profit out of a decaying business model. To echo Tim Baker in his above post, I don’t believe physical books will ever die, however with the steady rise in technology I don’t believe they are going to be as sort after.

    As the author of this blog alluded to, it is much more convenient to have an e-reader with 100’s books on it than opposed to carrying two or three voluminous hardcovers. It’s a matter of choice, preference rather, for the consumer. Publishers know this but they also know that customer preference isn’t always inline with their bottom line.

    Purely in my own opinion, these large publishing houses, in print and other forms of media, are trying to stay relevant but lack the willingness to adapt; rather they kind of force the customer into a limited set of choice and try to create a condition where a manufactured demand justifies their existence or the prices they charge for goods and services… *just realized this can be a blog post of my own now*

    Kinda makes you think, do they really care about the author? The customer? The craft? Or their own bottom line? These are just my thoughts, right or wrong, just what I’m feeling right now….

    • I’m guessing (with nothing to back it up) that Russo is sincere about his love of books, and that the publishers care more about the bottom line and are hoping they can get more authors to do this and stick it to Amazon. But I could be wrong.

      • jimcolv permalink

        Oh I’m quite certain of that as well. It’s just like what the MPAA and RIAA have been doing for the past few years. But it’s just a matter of time before they have to give in and find a way to adapt to the new system of distribution. A very difficult task for them to overcome but I’m certain they will find a way to regain dominance. They always do….

  10. Oh, I tried to read Russo (Empire Falls was a book club pick), and I couldn’t get into it. I bought the stupid book and then donated it.

    I like holding an actual book in my hand, but I like my e-reader too. I don’t want to court carpal tunnel syndrome by rocking a toddler in one hand and holding a 1000 page book in another. And turning pages when in that position takes some real muscle coordination too.

    Me thinks this boycott by Russo and King is pretty silly.

    • I’m impressed with anybody who can read while holding a toddler. I had to give up reading during the toddler stage (I might have been too tired to read… I don’t remember). You’re right about Empire Falls being tough to get into. It will have to wait.

  11. IntrovertedSarah permalink

    And are they boycotting their laptops to return to typewriters? It was Stephen King who released a short story only on Kindle a few years ago.
    Books are expensive in Australia – about $30 for a new release. E-books have brought that down to a reasonable price and I have never read so much since I’ve had an e-book reader. I am faceless to them, but part of the reason they are successful.

    • I don’t remember that. Did book buyers get mad at Stephen King for going e-book-only with a short story. If I hadn’t had an e-reader (or if I was a Stephen King fan), I might have annoyed by that too.

  12. IntrovertedSarah permalink

    Reblogged this on introvertedblogger and commented:
    I’m interested in what you think about this? Personally I’ve never read so much since getting an e-reader. Books in Australia are expensive and my e-reader halves the cost and so I read more. How do you feel about this boycott?

  13. I’ll never get tired of the good old fashioned paper book in my hands. I do own a Kindle, but I only get stuff that is exclusive to e-readers on it. If I can get it as a real book, I will. Asking someone to sign a Kindle screen seems odd, but if someone asked me I would. I’m funny that way…

  14. I have to applaud Russo and King for making a statement. It’s also easy to make statements when you don’t need the money. I am slowly becoming an e-reader b/c the Border’s near my house closed and B&N is in the mall. The only local bookstore near me specializes in incense and Eastern philosophy. I hate incense. I may still buy used books via Amazon b/c it’s stll less expensive than the Kindle store (plus I get something in the mail).

    • Incense and eastern philosophy in one store?? At least I can be very calm as I gag on the fumes. That’s the kind of thing that makes me want to shop online. I think all of outr Borders closed too (and none of them sold incense as far as I know).

  15. I have to admit that I have read more in the last seven months after having my kindle than I have int eh past seven years. I dono’t know what it is… I think it’s the ease of having all the books In one easy-to-grab devise. I don’t need to decide right now… I jsut grab it. And when I’m done… I just open up the next book in line. It’s convenient.

    I just wish there were a way to save paper books and bookstores, because I will miss them if they disappear. I have been known to look through a bookstore, find what I want, and then go home and download it.

    It’s just easier to me. I can’t see boycotting. I doubt it will change the writing on the wall.

    I do like the feel of a book, too, though. It’s hard.

  16. I’ve been buying the e version of books as a preview to see if its worth owning the real thing.

    Much like hiring a movie before deciding to buy it.

    (Came here from a reblog by Armand)

  17. I want to have it all: magazines, books, e-books, bookstores, online stores, libraries, etc., and I want it all to be as green as possible. 🙂

  18. I don’t think it’s fair on the reader. I would prefer to have a choice of what I can buy or when depending on the money I want to spend. Whether it would help bookstores, I doubt it.

    • It will be interesting to see if this helps the bookstores that Russo wants to help. My guess is that it will help bookstores where he does book signings and promotions, but not the average bookstore (because Russo can’t go to every bookstore). Now if Stephen King did this with EVERY SINGLE ONE of his books… that would be really interesting.

  19. I hate to admit this, but I am slow to embrace the E-reader. I have boxes and boxes of books that I have lugged around for years, because I Love Books and I Love reading. If I would have known that I would be moving so many times over my life time maybe I would have not bought so many paper books. I run into a lot of people who love their Kindles it’s changed their lives for the better. I am often slow to change so I would imagine eventually I will climb aboard the E-reader boat.But for now I’m with book in hand. I think it’s silly for authors to limit the purchace of a book from E-readers losing a wide audience.

  20. I don’t have an actual “E-reader” yet. I do use several apps for my android phone, however. Nook, Kindle, and one other I can’t remember the name of. I still love the feel of a good solid book, but I’ve done more reading lately due to the lower cost of ebooks. I can’t afford to run out and buy hardbacks, or even paper backs, so a good 2.99 or 3.99 ebook suits me fine.
    On the subject of king and others avoiding amazon, the conspiracy thought is that unless their books are being self published (which I think they aren’t) then perhaps their publishers are pushing them to avoid amazon, perhaps as a way to punish them for trying to lower the overall cost of ebooks. Back in the 90s, the band Pearl Jam decided they were going to try and avoid Ticketmaster (the biggest ticket distributing company in the US, I think) and go it alone, due to pricing. the end result was that it was more a pain in the butt than anything, and they went back, because all people really wanted was to see a concert, and didn’t care that the tickets weren’t cheap.
    Probably a bad comparison, but I guess what I’m saying is that at some point you can’t avoid the giant in the room. If enough people refuse to purchase the book, eventually the loss in sales will convince them that working with amazon is a necessary “evil”. Sorry for the long winded response.

    Drew Merten

  21. myrthtown permalink

    I see what you mean! A tablet is SO much easier for travel, and if an author is limiting the mediums in which one can find his book they probably won’t get as much money. Although, if you happen to be a re-reader as I am, it’s nice to hold the actual book and flip through the pages to your favorite parts. Doing that on a tablet is mildly irritating.

  22. One author with one title, or two with two, are not going to save independent book stores . . . the simple mathematical reality of that is a complete embarrassment to any author who makes such a claim. It’s worth noting that independent book retailing as a whole was in a shambles before ebooks came along.

    As for the nice smell of paper, one can always carry along their favorite smelly pocketbook while using their ereader, and if need be, it’s okay to touch it now and then as well!

    By the way, I still like paper books as much as always, but then there is the green issue, and libraries are full of books that hardly ever get read, including university libraries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: