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An online publishing landmark

An online publishing landmark
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First Published: Mon, Jun 27 2011. 08 44 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jun 27 2011. 08 44 PM IST
Many years ago, The Beatles sang about the woes of a paperback writer who could not get anybody in publishing to read his manuscript.
Thus went the lyrics: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?/ It took me years to write, will you take a look?/It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear/ And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer.
The poor fellow lived before the age of digital content. Today, he could have published his book in digital format, sold it online, and have an outside change to be a successful paperback writer.
A significant milestone in the world of online publishing was crossed last week when crime writer John Locke became the first independent author to sell more than one million copies of his e-books. Locke bypassed the publishers, reaching out directly to his audience through self-published books sold for the Kindle, the e-book reader from Amazon.
Meanwhile, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has announced plans for a new website that will, among other things, sell digital versions of the Potter books. Rowling seems to have decided that this is a good time to reach out to muggles without help from her publishers. Earlier, music band Radiohead had experimented with giving its songs to fans on its website, and that too at prices that the latter could decide.
However, it is too early to announce the birth of a brand new world of the independent artiste untouched by the grubby influence of commerce. Rowling and Radiohead can bypass their publishers only after they have built a dedicated global audience that they more or less own now, but which was initially cobbled by traditional publishing and music companies. Just think back at the screaming children making a dash for the new Potter book during those tightly managed global launches.
Further, Locke has published his own novels, but only with the help of the Kindle platform and the Amazon online bookshop. Pottermore, Rowling’s new website, is being developed in collaboration with Sony so that it can develop as an outlet for various Sony products that have been designed for Potter maniacs. And can even the most popular music band survive without iTunes?
Has viable self-publication come of age? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jun 27 2011. 08 44 PM IST