Story Of E

Online authors: A great start, but problems, especially copyright protection, remain

Best-selling author Stephen King keeps returning to the darkest corners of the soul in his writings. But when it comes to the new world of electronic publishing, he's pioneering virgin territory. In March, the master of the macabre sold more than half a million copies of his 66-page electronic book, Riding the Bullet, through Amazon.com and other Web sites for just $2.50 a pop. Now, King is doing something more radical. Later this month, he will sidestep publisher Simon & Schuster Inc. altogether by releasing installments of his new novel, The Plant, direct to readers from his own Web site (www.stephenking.com) at $1 per episode. "It's the ultimate experiment," says King's agent, Ralph M. Vicinanza.

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