The Guardian reports that author Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, is finally giving the go-ahead for an e-book version of her popular 2003 novel to be published through new independent e-book site Zola Books that her agent is starting. She is also writing a short-story-length sequel for the site.
Niffenegger said that she was sitting on the book not because she was a “weird book luddite,” but because she was “preserving [her] ebook virginity” because she didn’t feel e-books had lived up to their full potential yet. Then Zola Books came along, based on the principle that “ebooks could and should be better” and that they should be sold in partnership with independent booksellers instead of being used as a tool to help put them out of business.
It sounds like Niffenegger has certainly done a lot of thinking about how she wants her book to be presented as an e-book, and I can certainly respect that. She’s certainly putting her money where her mouth is. All the same, I have to wonder how effective it will really be. Unless Zola is going to sell via the major e-book stores, like Pottermore, it’s hard to imagine the average vendor-locked-in consumer will be inclined to jump through the hoops necessary to buy from an external site—especially since, no matter how well it’s sold, the book is ten years old and it seems like most people who would have wanted to read it would have found a way to do so by now.
And speaking of finding ways to do so, the other issue with delaying her e-book so long is that it already faces significant competition from the illicit free scanned e-book version. How significant? I googled “time traveler’s wife ebook” and the fifth result on the first page was for a “free PDF” download from a file locker site. The seventh result was for an on-line reader with the PDF in it, so the book could be read online without even having to download it. Both of these links were still working as of the time I wrote this blog post. And they’ve had ten years in which people who wanted to read it could have googled and found it.
So, yeah. Releasing as an e-book now, through an independent store? I wish you the best of luck with that, Ms. Niffenegger. I suspect you’re going to need it.