Grumbys caused the flash crash of the American stock market on May 6th. Readers of Andy Kessler's Grumby knew this as early as June 11th when the e-book edition of the novel was published; the hard cover didn't come out until August 3d by which time the flash crash was yesterday's news. [On October 1 the SEC and the CFTC blamed the flash crash on a single trade by Waddell & Reed, but this is much less interesting than the account in the novel.]
Three things are interesting: the book itself – it's a great read; the fact that the book came out on Kindle first and only later in hardcopy ,even though Kessler is an established and successful author; and the fact that electronic publishing makes it possible to have such fresh topical references in a novel.
Traditionally it takes a year or so after an author finishes writing a book before it makes its way through various edits and can appear on real or virtual bookshelves, assuming that the author already has a publisher lined up. e-publishing obviously shortens the cycle. In fact, the editing of Kindle Grumby isn't as careful as it would be if it had gone through the traditional publishing route (I haven't checked the hardcover edition so don't know whether some of the typos were caught by then). But the timeliness of the references more than makes up for some of the missing polish – much like a blog post, in fact.
Kindle editions are clearly no longer an afterthought; they're a significant part of book release strategy. Yesterdays' Wall Street Journal had an article about John Grisham releasing his new novel, The Confession, simultaneously in hardcover ($15.48) and Kindle ($9.99) editions. One third of the first week sales were of the e-book edition and combined e-book and hardcover first week sales were greater than the first week sales of his previous novel, which was released in hardcover only. First week hardcover sales were less than for the previous book – there certainly is cannibalization. Note the narrow price difference between the two editions – net to the publisher and possibly the author per copy is probably more with the Kindle edition; for the publisher there's no inventory risk or shipping hassle.
Grumby is a about a tech world that changes at the speed of the flash crash. It's about invention, viral adoption, hacking, crowd-sourcing, and brain-surgeon level programmers. Andy Kessler does the same excellent job with this milieu as he does in describing his native world of hedge fund management. And it came out first on Kindle… Does that tell us something about change in the formerly staid world of book publishing?