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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
King's e-book experiment a success
Stephen King website
King's website: "Respect my copyright. As a writer, it's all I've got."
Horror writer Stephen King's latest online publishing effort got off to a smooth start as thousands of users downloaded the first instalment of his new novel, The Plant.

Most readers seemed to be paying the $1 (67p) per copy King is asking for each chapter.

But the millionaire novelist has threatened to abort the exercise if less than three-quarters of readers downloading the book fail to pay up., the book retailer, provided the online payment system and reported 41,000 downloads by 1900 GMT on Monday.

Of that number, 32,000, or 78%, were paid for by credit card, said Kathy Kinney, a spokeswoman for the online retailer.

Stephen King
Stephen King: "Changing the way people think about stories"
She said the remaining 9,000 copies were either downloaded for free or would be paid for by post.

Publicising his idea on several US talk shows, King explained that he was testing behaviour on the internet.

"We have a generation that we've raised on Napster and MP3 who have gotten the mistaken idea that everything in the store is free," he said.

"And I'd like to see if we can't re-educate these people to the idea that the fruits of talent cost you money."

Worrying publishers

If King, who is the first major author to bypass his publisher, is successful in this venture others could follow.

"Publishers would really love it if this thing fell on its face," he said.

I'm a storyteller. I'll put my guitar on my shoulder and walk down the road, which I think publishers would really love.

Stephen King
King's publisher Simon & Schuster says it doesn't expect to lose its business with King, and for his part King says he has a good relationship with them.

Retail analyst Ken Cassar pointed to the promotion work publishers do.

"But self-publishing can have a significant impact at the very extremes. Both big names and the folks that would never ever get published could benefit," he said.

Avoiding technical glitches

King said putting the new novel in the easy-to-use PDF file format helped avoid the technical glitches that occurred in March when readers tried to download his first e-book which came in an encrypted format.

That work, Riding the Bullet, was the first work by a major author to be published exclusively online.

King described his idea as breaking the "trail for all the mid-list writers, literary writers, and just plain marginalised writers who see a future outside the mainstream".

The second instalment of the novel, about a vampire vine that takes over the offices of a publishing company and promises financial success for human sacrifice, will be published on King's website on 21 August.

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20 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Stephen King's online thriller
14 Mar 00 | Entertainment
King's e-book goes online
15 Mar 00 | Entertainment
King's e-book crashes
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