Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Stephen King's Book Service, Literal, Arrives

Stephen King doesn't do anything small, except for the occasional short story. With collaborators Dave Barry, Amy Tan and Scott Turow, to name a few, he has been entertaining audiences with something other than words. The Rock Bottom Remainders have merged prose and song for many years. Enough years for Mr. King to gain some useful insight into the music industry, and how one business model can feed off another.

The surprise announcement is expected later today, when the author will reveal an audiobook streaming service.

Jay Z isn't the only one to come up with this concept. He just happened to get to it first, but without books.

For listeners willing to pay $19.99 per month, they can download as many audiobooks as they like. The details are unclear at this point, although there have been rumours that Mr. King and his business partners intend to make their books available exclusively via "Literal". At some point, ebooks may be added to the service, along with video book trailers.

An earlier incarnation of the streaming service failed in beta testing when the Pandora model was tried. A software glitch cut stories up into chapters and then shuffled them, intermingling them with other chapters from authors similar to Stephen King, leading to confusion and a sense that the acclaimed author was converting to literary fiction in which a lot is said but nothing happens.

In a run-up to the official press conference, the Twitterverse will be blanketed with advertisements based on the #LITERALforALL hashtag. An appearance on the morning talk shows was called off when publicists realized that authors are a reclusive group and do not do well in public speaking venues. Other means must now be found to get out the message: "This is like the beginning of a new world", one that does not involve writers mumbling under the interogation of a perky presenter with five minutes for the segment, not enough time for a writer to compose a sentence that is grammatical, lyrical and compelling.

According to Weber State University's Eric Harvey, the pre-released photograph of the authors involved in "Literal" looked like a Davos economic summit deciding the future of books in some form or fashion. If the buzz surrounding "Literal" is any indication, this new method of book distribution could alter the publishing landscape in a profound way.

Ownership rights are unclear at this point, but author Scott Turow has indicated that writers will make more money from "Literal" than from sales via Amazon, which will in time be cut out of the book market completely by "Literal". The majority of the shares in "Literal" will be set aside for the literary artists whose works are added to the catalogue. Publishing houses are angling for their positions in the new landscape of digital book distribution, and have issued numerous warnings about the importance of gatekeeping and quality control, things that authors know nothing about.

The question remains, will readers pay that much per month for books, or will "Literal" go the way of the quill?

No comments: