Ryu Murakami Bypasses Publishers, Opts for IPad

Are you familiar with Ryu Murakami? He’s a successful, established Japanese novelist, and he’s breaking away from the heard with his next novel, A Singing Whale. Although he’s still ironing out the details for an ink and paper edition, he’s releasing the digital version directly to his audience via Apple’s iBookstore, “circumventing his traditional publisher in the process…

Murakami’s project should be hailed less as a blow against the monopoly of big publishing houses over authors and the circulation of their work, and more as a celebration of the kinds of opportunities that devices like the iPad can provide for creativity and cost-efficient distribution.

Other authors are, however, dispatching more direct challenges to the traditional publishing industry model by signing deals directly with e-book retailers, rather than through their publishers. This spring, bestselling suspense novelist Stephen King released his latest work, Blockade Billy as an e-book one month before releasing the hardcover version in the U.S. and Canada, and published a short story, “UR,” exclusively for the Kindle in February 2009. Other prominent American writers have also sold the e-book rights to past and current work exclusively to Amazon. (Mashable.com)

Wall Street Journal blogger, Yoree Koh, explains that the release and rapid adoption of Apple’s iPad has fueled a world of worry among old guard publishing industry heavyweights who “have feared the worst: thatprecious big-name authors might sign directly with e-book retailers, relegating the old-school publishers as the dispensable middleman.”

Let the nightmare begin. Novelist Ryu Murakami… replaced the publishers with a software company to help develop the e-book titled “A Singing Whale,” or “Utau Kujira” in Japanese. The digital package will include video content and set to music composed by Academy Award winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto… Mr. Murakami’s decision is the latest step taken by well known authors in re-writing the business model of the publishing industry… [By] offering fresh material only in an electronic format, Mr. Murakami’s plan has basically removed the traditional book publisher from the calculation entirely. (Wall Street Journal)

Obvious growing pains will follow such a bold move, but this as an inevitable and exciting evolution as the publishing industry moves away from the Gutenberg Paradigm toward a more audience-centric publishing model. I see this transition not so much as a challenge, but rather as a reminder that content can easily and quickly be packaged into engaging, innovative, multi-modal, portable and user friendly formats. Vook, iBookstore, Kindle and others are leading the innovation, while the lumbering dinosaurs sit by and grumble.

Why? Catch up. Surpass. Imagine an even sexier future! Paper and ink publishing is grand. Aesthetically pleasing, nostalgic, luxurious and enduring in a fragile sort of way. All true. I love books. And they’re here to stay, though their production will not continue to be the primary vessel for publishing content. They’ll likely become a specialty item. Electric format books offer outstanding financial benefits, distribution benefits, and creativity benefits. The biggest challenge will be to storytellers and content providers. It’s time for us to begin dreaming up the next frontier of storytelling, and Ryu Murakami’s A Singing Whale is just the inspiration we need. It’s time to liberate words from their bindings, time to let them soar and dance!

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