NEW YORK (CNNfn) - In what could be a horror story for lovers of traditional paper books, a new work by best-selling author Stephen King will be published exclusively in electronic book form next week.|
The story, "Riding the Bullet," is to be published jointly by Scribner, a unit of Simon & Schuster Inc., and Philtrum Press, King's own press. The 16,000-word ghost story, which would equal about 66 pages in traditional book form, will cost readers $2.50 and be available March 14.
"This innovative publication strategy takes the e-book from the realm of novelty and directly into the very mainstream of today's culture," said Jack Romanos, president and chief operating officer of Simon & Schuster, a unit of Viacom Inc. (VIA: Research, Estimates). "And it reaffirms the publisher-author relationship at a moment when it is fashionable to predict its demise."
Most of those involved in the effort say it is partly an experiment to discover readers' interest in this relatively new product.
"I'm curious to see what sort of response there is and whether or not this is the future," said King, who wrote the story after a near-fatal car accident in June 1999.
The book will be available in a variety of different formats, allowing it to be read on devices as varied as personal computers, personal organizers and readers designed only for e-books. The publisher has no projections on which will be the most popular version.
"This is the interesting part of this -- the marketplace will decide what is preferred format," Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg said.
Rothberg said a story of this length would never be published by itself in paper book form.
SoftLock.com Inc., the company handling distribution of the book in Adobe Acrobat format for personal computers and laptops, said not only will the book be available at more than 100 online book sellers, but also by general interest portals and Web sites run by Stephen King fans.
While the software has protections against copying the full story, a free sample can be copied and e-mailed and the recipient of the e-mail can purchase a copy of the story without even going to a site, said Leila Dillon, director of marketing for SoftLock, whose stock is traded on the Nasdaq bulletin board under the symbol SLCK.
Some major players in publishing and software are trying to find the role they will play in the expected growth of e-books in the future. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT: Research, Estimates) and Barnes & Noble.com (BNBN: Research, Estimates) announced a joint venture in January to promote e-books, predicting they could overtake traditional paper books in about 10 years. But the Microsoft Reader software to allow reading of e-books is not yet available.