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Also by MJ Rose:

>> the future of publishing

>> small presses, big sucesses

>> how i learned to love "no"

>> a look at the biz through rose colored glasses


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the king of e-books
by m.j. rose

It's been in the news for days. It's been the news for days. Stephen King's first foray into e-books was a mega success. 400,000 books sold in the first 24 hours. And the publishing industry is a buzz.

But what is the meaning of this? Will print be replaces by the new electronic book? Or is it just proof that King's 1.3 million readers will buy his work in whatever format it's presented?

``While I think that the Internet and various computer applications for stories have great promise, I don't think anything will replace the printed word and the bound book,'' King said in a statement.

But most industry pundits think otherwise.

The new theory is that "throw away books" AKA paperback books --the genre titles that few people keep will be replaced by e-books. And for good reason. Electronic format books are easier to store, use no paper, and can be produced more economically without any warehousing or returns--which are the biggest problems in the book industry.

But there's also something going on among the e-author community--over 1000 authors--who have been trying to get some notice for their titles for the last two years. Most are thankful that a big name finally stepped in and legitimized the format--educating the general population that e-books are a valid form. But there are also dozens of angry e-authors claiming that they laid the foundation for this breakthrough and none of them are getting any of the glory.

And that's true.

The fact is the media didn't take e-books to heart until King scared them into it. But so what else is new? Until King's little novella burst on the scene no e-author had sold anywhere near that number.

In fact, total sales for all combined fiction e-book titles have not reached King's supernatural 400,000.

It's not much of a surprise that there is griping among the troops. This group of enterprising, entrepreneurial e-authors have suffered the slings and arrows of the publishing community and the general public but have refused to give up. They've been told their "e-books are not books." They've been asked when they are going to write a "real book"? They've been refused reviews by almost every major review publication except for Publisher's Weekly, which began running e-book reviews in 1999.

But the truth is, the barrier has been broken and the general public is now educated and the time is perfect for e-authors and e-publishers to jump on King's coattails and ride the wave.

How many readers don't know what e-books are now? How many online bookstores will refuse to carry e-books now? What local paper won't do an article on the man or woman who is doing what King is doing in its very own town? And what writer should be ashamed to only be published in e-format, when the King is now published in that format also?

Riding the Bullet may have been a test for Simon & Schuster to see whether the public was ready to embrace the e-book format. It may have been a marketing ploy to sell a 66-page novella that otherwise would not have been printed. It might have been a lot of things. But does any of that matter?

Readers bit the bullet and bought the e-book and jump-started a form and an industry. So what if the industry is almost three years old? So what if others laid the foundation for this giant step?

This isn't the time for sour grapes. It’s time for e-authors and e-publishers to turn those grapes into champagne and toast the new era.

M.J. Rose has been called the Poster Girl of e-publishing by Time Magazine. In March 1999, her novel Lip Service was the first e-book discovered online. (Trade Paperback, Pocket Books July 2000) Her other titles include: Private Places--an e-novella only available at Mightywords.com (April 2000) and How to publish and promote on line with over 500 links, written by M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy (St. Martin's Press. Jan, 2001). Rose also covers the e-book industry for Wirednews.com. She is currently working on her second full-length novel for Pocket Books.


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