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King's Readers Rewarded For Honesty

Encouraged by the strong fan response to his online horror story The Plant, Stephen King plans to write a third installment for his Internet audience, his assistant said on Monday.

"The numbers are very promising," said Marsha DeFilippo, King's assistant. "He is going to put up part three."

King, who had committed to publishing at least the first two installments of the story, earlier warned readers on his Web site that at least 75 percent of those who downloaded The Plant must pay $1 if the full story were to make its way to the Web.

Through midnight July 30, King's first installment of The Plant was downloaded 152,132 times from the Internet, DeFilippo said.

About 76 percent of the readers paid immediately or said they would pay later, she said. The balance downloaded the story for free, stiffing the best-selling author of such stories as Carrie, The Shining and Salem's Lot.

Those who pay in advance receive an e-mail confirmation that reads, in part, "Thanks for reading my story, thanks for your honesty, and thanks for helping us change the face of publishing!
                  — Stephen King"

The first page of the book on Acrobat Reader (and, yes, did pay for it)

The first chapter of the book was made available on July 24, with 100,000 of the downloads coming during the first two days of its online offering, said Conxion Corp., the Internet distributor of the story.

"If you pay, the story rolls. If you don't, the story folds," King cautions on his site.

The second and third installments of The Plant will be released on Aug. 21 and Sept. 25, DeFilippo said.

Internet readers using dial-up modems can download the book in two minutes. People with high-speed Internet access can get the story about the blood-sucking plant in 15 seconds, according to Conxion.

Demand for The Plant has been noted by the publishing industry. Random House Inc., the biggest English-language book publisher, said on Monday it will join other publishers in launching a unit for electronic books. The AtRandom titles will be published starting early in 2001.

"My friends, we have a chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare," King had said on his Web site. "Not only are we going glueless, look Ma, no e-Book! No tiresome encryption!"

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report

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