Stephen King’s e-book: Dead on the vine

By Laura Miller

Topics: Laura Miller

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I, too, am disappointed Stephen King has decided to abort writing installments of “The Plant.” I agree with Laura Miller that “The Plant” is quite good, which only torques me off considering I also paid for the five installments and now I’m left hanging in the middle of a good story.

To pay for part of a book, and then to learn if King gets around to it and decides to finish it a couple of years from now, is ridiculous and a waste of my money, which I’m positive King would agree with even though it’s been long time since he had to remember the value of a buck.

I’ll never pay installments for an online book again.

– Paul DiResto

It is strange to see publishers showing their relief over the failure of Stephen King’s “The Plant” experiment in e-publishing. They are saying that this vindicates them, and shows they will still be important in the future. However, they are forgetting three things:

1. E-books are still in their infant stage, and King still sold a huge number of copies, especially of his first chapter. Anyone can tell you how much of a pain it is to read a book at your desktop computer or on a Palm Pilot. All it will take is enough time for cheap, portable and highly readable readers to be on the market for this situation to change.

2. Even more important is the fact that this failed not because people didn’t want to read the book, but because people were downloading it for free. People are too used to being able to get everything online for free (Napster, anyone?) and I think people’s consciences slowly eroded as time went on, so those who may have paid for the first installment didn’t want to for later installments. All King would have had to do to fix this would have been to charge before downloading, so that people had to pay to get the books. He didn’t, however, because he wanted to test our honesty, not his popularity.

3. Finally, price. While we all love a good King novel, this one was getting out of hand. Even at $1 a download (which was actually increased after the first two), as soon as we got over six downloads we would have been paying more than a paperback book. Isn’t the whole idea of e-publishing that it means less overhead and therefore cheaper prices for the consumer? Why would I be willing to pay more for a book that I have to read on my Palm Pilot than for a paperback? If King had charged 50 cents a download, and then had no more than 10 downloads, he would have still made a fortune and I think the whole process would have been more of a success.



Needless to say, this is not a repudiation of self-publishing by big-name authors. Quite the contrary, this is just working out the kinks.

– Scott Martin

Stephen King has nobody to blame but himself for the failure. Many people were enthusiastic, but he was the one who failed. It should have been done on at least a weekly basis. Who wants to wait so long between sections? He raised the price so that what should have ended up costing no more than $9 was going to cost $13 or more. The sections were very short.

The initial formats were very screwed up. With my Rocket E-book Reader, I could not download it directly but had to convert to HTML and then load it, which was a pain. This was fixed by the second installment.

These e-book people have got to get their prices in line with pocketbooks, not hardcover prices, because you don’t have a book when you are done. You can’t give it to anybody, you can’t print it and nobody in your family can read it unless you give up your reader. They are too greedy.

– M. L. Simmons

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