Will a self published ebook ever win the pulitzer?

Bobby Blanchard

The Association of American Publishers recently reported 23 percent of American publishing sales came from e-books in 2012, which is up from 17 percent in 2011. E-books are growing industry, and while it has not consumed the publishing market, the simultaneous rise of iPads and other tablets forecast a market that is going to keep growing. Meanwhile, during the same month that the Association of American Publishers releaed their report, Barnes & Noble announced another self-publishing platform. This poses the question: could a self-published, ever e-book win the pulitzer?

This answer: probably not, but never say never.

For several years now, self-publishing a book has become increasingly easier. Making money and living off being a published author is as hard as ever, but publishing is a different story. This has led to several different self-publishing outlets, including platforms through Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

Earlier this month, NOOK Media announced NOOK Press, an “innovating publishing platform” that offers authors “a fast, easy and free way to write, edit, collaborate and publish the highest quality e-books and directly distribute them to millions of avid readers.” NOOK Press is building off of PubIt, Barnes & Noble’s first self-publishing platform. So with all of these self publishing platforms and options, isn’t it just a matter of time before someone publishes a Pulitzer-winning book?

Here’s the issue with self-publishing e-books — it’s too easy. While some self-published e-books are fun and can be great, there’s also a lot of garbage. When publishing is literally just a few clicks of the mouse away, anyone from a child to an adult can self-publish a book.

To prove a point, I self-published a book of my own this past weekend. I don’t mean to self promote, but you should all check out “Gyan Rosling” online. The book is one sentence long (“Gyan Rosling and I got married.”), and at 99 cents, it’s a total steal.

But really, like many other self-published books, it is awful and not worth your time. I would have made it free, but that’s not an option. I “wrote” and “published” “Gyan Rosling” to show how easy it is to publish something worth anyone’s time. It took me all of five minutes — writing it and publishing it.

Theoretically, the Pulitzer Prize is supposed to go to the best American book published each year. While this isn’t always the case, it is the ideology the Pulitzer Prize is built on. Here’s the question though: if a book is good enough to win the Pulitzer, wouldn’t it be good enough to be published and printed in the first place?

That’s not to say there are only bad self-published e-books or that self-published e-books are inherently bad. There have been several successful ones. “John Dies at the End,” a comical horror story, was originally published online as a web series starting in 2001. It eventually became an online manuscript in 2004, before being printed in 2007 and again in 2009. Earlier this year, a film adaptation premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

To say that a self-published e-book will never win the Pulitzer probably isn’t fair; when it comes to shifting digital landscapes, its bad to say “always” or “never.” I once read an article from 2007 about how MySpace was developing a social media monopoly. I am sure in hindsight the author feels slightly foolish.

But in the immediate future, don’t expect a Pulitzer Prize to go to a non-traditional, unprinted book.