**E-Books Move Forward Without a King

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After almost single-handedly putting e-books on the map, author Stephen King is backing off his online ventures to get back to the business of writing old-fashioned print novels.

While some have labeled this a major loss for e-book publishers, those in the industry said this is not the case.

An e-book is essentially a book that can be read using a computer or digital reading devices such as SoftBook and Rocket ebook. Seeking an alternative outlet to such web sites as Random House, HarperCollins, Doubleday, Simon & Schuster and other major publishers, King released the first chapter of his serial novel "The Plant" on stephenking.com. He promised to publish additional chapters as long as 75 percent of the readers paid $1 for each download. If not, King said, he would discontinue the project.

King said between 75 percent and 80 percent of readers paid the fee, which was increased to $2 for chapters four and five. However, reports have said that only 46 percent of readers paid for the fourth installment.

Regardless, King said that after the sixth chapter, he is taking a break for a "year or two" to work on three new novels. This coming from the author who stated at the beginning of the project: "We have a chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare."

Meanwhile, the e-book industry is moving forward with or without his participation. Leading publishers and the Association of American Publishers released the results of the Open E-Book Standards Project on Nov. 27. The project seeks to establish recommendations and voluntary standards that will promote the development of a "robust, competitive e-book market and make it easy for consumers to find and use e-books," according to a statement by the AAP.

Additionally, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., the creators of SoftBook and Rocket ebook, and bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. said Wednesday that they were focused on forming a strategic alliance.

The sixth chapter of "The Plant" will be free, but future chapters will be $2, according to King.

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