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Interview 5.5.5.: Tom Piccirilli on the digital age of publishing

The kind of stuff Tom Piccirilli writes these days - stories of revenge, redemption, and people with nothing but pain and regret dogging their heels - would seem to be most at home in the dog-eared pages of an old paperback book, preferably something with a provocative-going-on-lewd cover and a logo reading Gold Medal (or maybe Hard Case Crime). But more and more these days, when Piccirilli announces a new project it's got the word "digital" in the description.

With devices like Kindles and Nooks slowly but surely establishing places of permanence in the marketplace, and with more publishers looking to digital releases as a way to continue churning out new work while safeguarding their bleeding bottom lines, Piccirilli has jumped wholeheartedly on the digital bandwagon. Just this week he announced Nightjack, a new novel getting its first publication in any format as a digital download from Crossroad Press.

In today's installment of Interview 5.5.5., Piccirilli talks about the burgeoning digital age of publishing - and his place in it.

BG: As a reader, where do you stand on digital publishing? Love it? Living with it? Hate it?

TP: I hate that it’s part of the reason that bookstores are dying out. But there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I really hope we somehow find a balance between physical books and digital downloading. I’d hate to think there will one day be no bookstores left because everyone is Kindling and nobody is walking the stacks anymore. I don’t want to be the only guy with a mule and a cart waving my fist at all them fancy autymobiles whizzing by, but that’s sometimes how it feels.

As a writer, how important is it for you to begin moving into digital publishing now rather than later?

If you’re going to make the jump into any new technology or fashion trend, it’s better to do it sooner than later. All my novels from Bantam are available as digital downloads and I’ve been putting some out of print stuff on Amazon and other places making it available as well. It’s good that authors retain some control over their titles, that the work is made available instantly and globally, and nothing will again go out of print unless we want it to, but again, it’s a spooky time for a luddite like me. And people, please go out and still populate your bookstores. Can you imagine a world more horrific than one without bookstores?

What kinds of freedoms and new opportunities do you anticipate this shift in publishing could open up for writers?

An author will have more control over his material, garner a larger percentage since he’s basically self-publishing the work, and he can set his own prices, etc. What else is around the corner waiting for us? I have no idea.

As you mentioned, you’ve begun releasing a lot of your back catalog digitally, plus some new stuff not available in print. What’s the reaction been so far? Are you finding that new readers are discovering your work because of this?

It’s still too early to tell. I only started joining the digital revolution a couple of weeks ago. Time has yet to tell.

Do you yourself use any kind of e-reader? If not, will you?

I don’t own one but my wife does. She loves her to death. Will I ever get one? Possibly. I’m one of those crotchety old men who hate change, so we’ll see if or when I break down and join on board.

Coming Tomorrow: Tom Piccirilli on the future

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