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King Novel Opens Debate About Electronic Reading

Posted March 14, 2000

— Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and magazines are already online. Now big name authors and publishers are opening up shop on the Net, but not without controversy.

Master novelist Stephen King's newest work,Ride the Bullet", hit the Net exclusively this week. The 16,000-word novel will be released only in electronic form, not in stores.

For $2.50, you can download the novel to your computer, print it out or move it to ane-book, which is a portable electronic reading tablet.

But will people use electronic means to read for pleasure?

"I can't imagine that most people who enjoy reading a novel on the beach or in bed or whatever will want to turn to an e-book," says Paul Betz of theOxford University Press.

On the other hand, Betz says, "Among college students, it's pretty clear that it's the normal thing to do, to read things on the web on screen."

Betz works for the Press in Cary, which distributes thousands of works, most of them academic.

TheAmerican National Biographyand other multi-volume works are very expensive to publish in book form, and there are other limitations as well.

Betz says multi-volume works are difficult to update in book form. "In the online publishing environment, you just have a great deal more flexibility," he says.

Betz says publishers have no good marketing model for online publishing; however, many are moving to the Internet nevertheless.

"I think in a short period of time it will become clearer what really can be done commercially or as a subscription arrangement," he says.

Betz says the American National Biography may be the last, large multi-volume series published in book form in the United States.

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