Stephen King Covers Up, Shuns Digital

joyland banner

Detail of JOYLAND hardcopy, by Robert McGinnis

Stephen King made a big splash in the publishing world yesterday when he announced that he has no plans to publish a digital version of his new novel “Joyland” (June 2013, Hard Case Crime). Well, maybe at some point, but in the meantime, “let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one,” he told the Wall Street Journal. It’s not that King’s a luddite either: his January essay on guns was published digital-only as an Amazon single. And all the way back in 2000 he perplexed the publishing establishment by releasing the novella “Riding the Bullet” as an e-book. (At the time, Jeff Bezos still thought Kindle meant starting a fire with wood chips.) Hey, if King were predictable, do you think 500 million people would have shivered their way to the terrifying ends of his tomes? So kudos to Cujo’s creator for pushing people back into bookstores. But maybe this was the perfect book to take advantage of the changeling nature and limitless options of digital: because the art for “Joyland” really pops, and there’s a lot of it.

Although the story is set in North Carolina in 1973, the nostalgia-tinged paperback edition cover resembles a 1950s dime store mystery. The stylized illustration provided by Glen Orbik features a buxom redhead startled in the corner of a carnival, clutching a brownie bullet camera. Then there’s the limited edition hardcover by artist Robert McGinnis, who give us the backside of a string-bikini-clad raven-haired woman walking on the beach in heels carrying a rifle. More 1973, perhaps, a hint of Hef and all. But wait, there’s more! Susan Hunt Yule illustrated a map of Joyland especially for the limited edition that graces the back cover. She ditches sex appeal for a colorful and downright cheerful look at the amusement park with a cool pop-modern aesthetic. Which cover is right? Now stop it: you know you can judge a book that way. Stephen King always keeps us guessing, paying homage to the bookstore just as his covers nod to old books. And Hunt Yule, if you call her quick, may just be able to draw you a map to get to your local bookstore–while it’s still there.