Internet Is Mightier Than Pen?
Veteran Authors Rushing to Release Novels on Internet
By Chung Ah-young
Many people once regarded computers and the Internet as a bad influence on writing, making literature retreat from public life.
But it's getting clear that the technology is impacting writing and cultural trends.
Veteran authors, still accustomed to the traditional way of writing, are turning their eyes to the Internet to boost interest in literature.
They are rushing to cyberspace to release their heavy-themed novels before publishing it in hard copy.
Recently, rising author Jung I-hyun, famous for her previous work, ``My Sweet Seoul'' is now posting her new novel ``You Don't Know'' on the Web site of Kyobo Bookstore from Aug. 1.
The idea of releasing the novel serially on the online bookstore was made by the local publisher Munhakdongne. It is the first attempt to post a long novel on the online bookstore suggested by the publisher.
Veteran novelist Park Bum-shin posted his latest novel ``Cholatse'' on Naver, the nation's top portal, last year. Later, Hwang Suk-young put his new serial novel ``Gaebapbaragibyeol,'' which means Venus in Korean, on the same portal.
The two predecessors scored a big success in the off-line industry. According to Prunsoop Publishing, more than 30,000 copies of ``Cholatse'' have been sold. The publisher said that it is quite encouraging given the current climate in the publishing industry that is hard to sell just 10,000 copies of a local novel.
``Cholatse,'' which had been posted on Naver from Aug.9 last year to Jan. 7 this year, was published in hard copy in March.
Park, who gained enormous popularity for serially publishing in newspapers in the 1970-80s, saw one million people visit his blog over five months.
Meanwhile, Munhakdongne said that more than 60,000 copies of ``Gaebapbaragibyeol'' have been sold, becoming one of the bestsellers of the day. About 1.8 million people visited his blog for about five months.
Every morning, the Internet users flocked to the blog to read the updated series ``Gaebapbaragibyeol.'' The Internet surfers often debated the writing and sometimes shared views about the novel.
``Gaebapbaragibyeol,'' Hwang's autobiographic coming-of-age novel, immediately drew hundreds of comments responding to the daily updates.
About whether such responses might affect the plot or creativity, Hwang said he found a new means of communication and a possible change of the novel format proper to the Internet blog.
``Many readers who read the novel on the blog are buying the hard copies because they want to keep it. It is hard to read the serially released novel everyday. Also, those who don't read the novel are choosing the book because of familiarity,'' Jang Eutteum, a marketing manager of the Munhakdongne, told The Korea Times.
He said that releasing a novel on the Internet allows easy marketing and promotion for both publishers and writers, as the material remains in cyberspace for a long time.
The marketing effects are enormous as the blog novel was so powerful to be extended to other blogs.
Jung's new novel is drawing a fresh attention as online bookstores are also struggling to survival.
Until recently, online bookstores were competing with each other in price discounts. But as a fixed price system has now been introduced, the bookstores lost their competitive edge, Jang said.
``So the contents are becoming an important weapon for the survival for the online bookstores. I think other online bookstores might follow suit for the posting of the novels on their Web sites,'' he said.
Jang said that the trend is apparent as the major newspapers and quarterly literature magazines in which the novels were first published in the past are losing popularity among the younger generation, the Internet is a good alternative to yield a breakthrough for the sluggish literature arena.
``We've decided to upload Jung's new novel on the Internet first to draw more young readers into literature,'' he said.
Jung's novel ``You Don't Know'' will be posted 100 times on the Web site until January next year. The hard copy will be available around February, according to the publishing company.
The heaviness and seriousness of the renowned novelists' literature has broken the bias against the Internet culture dominated by light-hearted chats and short writings.
However, critics say, authors should not be swayed by the responses and keep the creativity and the original intent intact.