Aussie e-book hovers in the fast lane

Matthew Reilly’s free online novel, Hover Car Racer, is as fast as its racing protagonist in spreading around the world to reach new readers.

Although financial success is hard to track because the book can be e-mailed on and sent to any number of people, Reilly is excited that more people than ever are reading his words, and believes that publishing online will pay off in the end.

“I could have sold it for more money and royalties, but there’s more to life than money,” said Reilly. “Let me just say, however, that my sponsors have paid me a considerable amount and made the venture worthwhile.”

“If it brings new readers to my existing bound books, I’ll be thrilled,” he said.

Unlike online books by authors such as Stephen King and Bryce Courtney, which cost money to download, sponsorship from Canon and United International Pictures enables Reilly to provide his novel to readers for free.

Hover Car Racer follows the high-octane adventures of gifted 14-year-old pilot Jason Chaser as he takes on the super-charged world of hover car racing. Racing at speeds of 810km/h, the young adrenalin addict comes against all sorts of villains and rivals in the famed International Race School.

“One thing’s for sure: you’ll never read anything faster than Hover Car Racer,” said Reilly.

Matthew Reilly is best known for his adult suspense novels. Scarecrow is his latest US release and was the number 1 book in Australia for the eight weeks leading to Christmas 2003. Other books by Reilly include the internationally acclaimed Contest, Ice Station and Temple.

The book is an eight-part series, released on the 4th and 20th of each month. The first part was released in April and part 6 is due on 20 June.

Reilly hopes that publishing online will reach the tech-savvy new generation of readers, and expand his readership.

“More people than ever are ‘always online’,” said Reilly.

“I think the Net-savvy will have fewer inhibitions about reading a novel on their PC, than they will have about picking up a book.”

Part 5 of the novel had received 80,000 hits only days after being put up, but Reilly points out that this is only a fraction of real reader numbers.

“The thing is, Hover Car Racer is designed to be ‘e-mailed on’. Because it is already free, I want people to e-mail it on to their friends,” he said.

“So, in reality, we can’t trace exactly how far it has spread. I like to think that each hit has been e-mailed to four people, which gives us a healthy 320,000 readers already, which I think is a great success.”

Reilly said the sponsors knew from the start that there would be no way to trace exact reader numbers.

“I guess this says a lot about their faith in the venture,” he said.

James Fewtrell, Canon’s assistant general manager of corporate communications, said Canon was extremely enthusiastic about supporting the venture, “especially when Reilly suggested in his latest release that people download and print the novel out”.

“But that aside, Reilly is an amazing writer. We had no doubt that it was a great idea for Canon to sponsor Rilley’s innovative and novel idea. Excuse the pun,” Fewtrell said.

“One advantage the online novel has over a conventional one is that commuters can just print out a couple of pages at work to read on the train, rather than carry a whole book with them,” Fewtrell added.

As far as Reilly and his sponsors know, he is the first author to publish online without charging readers.

“I love being the first to try something new. Getting sponsors was at first difficult, so it took patience and a bit of guts. But we got there and I’m thrilled with how it’s gone,” Reilly said.

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