Stephen King plans exclusive eBook release
(CNN) -- Author Stephen King has taken several chances in his career -- admittedly, a leap that's easier to take when you're a mainstay on best-seller lists.
He released "The Green Mile" as a six-part serial novel, which later became a hit movie. In a package full of King-themed computer toys called "Stephen King's F13," he included a short story entitled "Everything's Eventual."
Now, he's taking another chance. Simon & Schuster will publish King's "Riding the Bullet," exclusively as an eBook. The ghost story, written shortly after King's near-fatal accident in June, is about a hitchhiker finding a ride. It will cost $2.50 and can be purchased straight from Simon & Schuster's Web site.
eBooks are still not quite mainstream, despite some early support and eager startups. This offering is a tentative dip into the electronic pool for King, Schuster and the two other companies co-publishing the book, Scribner and Philtrum Press.
"I'm curious to see what sort of response there is and whether or not this is the future," said King.
The eBook can be read on a desktop computer, personal digital assistant (PDA) or a proprietary eBook device. Several companies make such devices, including Rocket eBook and Glassbook. After users pay for the book on the publisher's site, they can download it as a single file.
While reading on a PC can be tiresome, newer PDAs - such as the color Palm IIIc - and eBook readers are designed to be easier on the eyes for long periods.
eBook publishing also allows a title to reach readers much more quickly and is cheaper for the publisher, say the experiment's proponents.
"What's exciting is that we are able to go from Stephen King's computer to the reader in a fraction of the print-book publishing arc," says Kate Tentler, vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Online.
The stocked titles of even the most well-known eBookseller can't rival Amazon, but supporters say eBooks are more convenient -- cheaper, too.
Peanutpress.com publishes electronic books for Palm and Windows CE handhelds, and has only 500 titles in stock, though there are another 800 or so being processed. The company says it has gotten plenty of support from the print industry, too.
"We're working with other publishers to bring out another book in a different genre that will only be available electronically," says Mike Segroves, vice president of marketing and sales at Peanutpress.com, which specializes in electronic books for handheld computers. "We've got others coming in advance of their paper form, and plenty of simultaneous releases."
Peanutpress prices its titles slightly lower than paperback counterparts offered at online booksellers. There are also no shipping costs, since the transfer is completely electronic and takes just a few minutes to finish.
The service is also safe, even if the book is lost due to a hard drive crash or PDA memory loss. Customers can just log back into their account and immediately re-download any books they've bought.
Peanutpress has support from brick-and-mortar booksellers, too. Borders is selling Peanutpress books on its Web site, and says it plans to install kiosks in airport bookstores where travelers can place their PDA in a slot and download a book to read on the plane.
"It's gotten beyond experimentation," says Segroves says, who admits feeling excited that a marquee author like King is taking a chance with eBooks.
"We're really excited about a major new story from Stephen King, being the first one published after his accident," Segroves says. "For it to be available only in electronic form ... (is) a major step for the eBook publishing industry."
Stephen King is writing again
Simon & Schuster
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