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Stephen King to Release Online Book Today

By rusty in News
Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 05:53:14 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

The Washington Post reports that horror writer Stephen King will release his new novella "Riding the Bullet" at one minute past midnight tonight, in downloadable form only. The book will be available from Simon & Schuster, and the Post reports that the 16,000 word story will cost about $2.50USD, and will be released in several formats, but none of them sounded like .pdf to me. Simon & Schuster appear to not exactly be prepared for this, as I can't currently get any information about the book from their overloaded servers. It'll be interesting to see if this catches on.

Update [2000-3-13 15:15:57 by rusty]: simonsays.com is finally accessable. More info on the book formats available is below.

Well, it appears that most of the formats are either for expensive mobile book readers, or can only be read by proprietary software. The worst, IMO, is Glassbook, who apparently have a reader that is basically PDF with some frosting. Hoping that I could at least get the text with a normal PDF viewer, I tried to download a free book. But you can't even download the file without their (windows only, natch) "special" software. Blah.

NetLibrary, at least, will offer the book in a browser-based format. Of course, it uses frames for the table of contents, but at least it's cross-platform. And, best of all, the "standard login" works. :-)


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Stephen King to Release Online Book Today | 10 comments (10 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Well, this should be an interesting... (none / 0) (#1)
by bmetzler on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 02:00:09 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

Well, this should be an interesting experiment to gauge the general cultural readiness for such technology.
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

... (none / 0) (#4)
by stimuli on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 02:44:09 PM EST

stimuli voted 1 on this story.

Perhaps I'm just not up to the times, but I don't see myself paying good money for books in an electronic format, at least not any time soon. Not that I haven't read a book or two thus, but it is clearly an inferior to good ol' paper.
-- Jeffrey Straszheim

Am I alone here???? This really mak... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by Emacs on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 03:55:11 PM EST

Emacs voted 1 on this story.

Am I alone here???? This really makes me crazy. I for one hate to sit at my computer and read long articles,let alone read a book, and I have no desire to download a book and print it out. I'm all for progress, but this doesn't fall into that catagory in my mind. I love to read and there is no comparison between plopping in my favorite chair, adjusting the lighting to perfection, proppping my legs up, and enjoying a good book, versus sitting in my office max chair and staring at a CRT. I'll gladly pay the extra few bucks for the real deal.

Re: Am I alone here???? This really mak... (none / 0) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 07:40:47 PM EST

Personally, I find that reading books on my PalmIII isn't too bad as long as I've got good lighting, but yeah, in general, electronic-only distribution needs to wait for cheap, easy-on-the-eyes portable viewing formats to catch up. Perhaps something like the Media Lab's reusable paper is in order... print out a few chapters at a time. Though then it's still in an inconvenient format.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

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[ Parent ]

Its fun to watch the growing pains ... (none / 0) (#3)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 05:17:13 PM EST

lee_malatesta voted 1 on this story.

Its fun to watch the growing pains of the print industry as they try to 'get' the eCommerce religion. I really don't care that most of the formats offered for Steven King's latest are all proprietary cursings from the netherworld. This state of affairs is a mild inconvenience to King fans and further establishes the Internet as a level playing field for those authors that can't get the same type of publicity that King can. Any schmuck with a net connection can offer their latest work for free or at any price they want. Personally I'd rather read 10 (or 10,000) books by folks I'd never heard of before than 1 book by Steven King.

Like was mentioned, it's a good ide... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by alisdair on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 05:29:49 PM EST

alisdair voted 1 on this story.

Like was mentioned, it's a good idea, but which format should you use?

I hate reading long articles in web browsers, never mind books. The only time a book in HTML format is useful is when it's a reference manual -- the Perl CD Bookshelf, or Using Samba being good examples of this.

So, PDF? But PDF is less than ideal -- it's not designed for reading books, it's best for technical documents, and for transportation of layout and text, not for reading. I'd end up printing out the PDF file, and that would be pointless.

Is there some sort of standard online text reading system, other than PDF? If not, why not? :-)

Re: Like was mentioned, it's a good ide... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by rusty on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 09:44:21 PM EST

I don't think PDF is all that wonderful either, but it has several things going for it:
  • Widely available, free readers
  • Cross platform
  • Allows publishers to do all those wanky layout things they can't live without
At the moment, I'd say it's the best of a bunch of bad choices. Downloadable books won't be a factor, IMHO, until someone comes up with a device that is cheap enough to be worth buying, and that duplicates or improves on the experience of a real book. To be more specific:
  • No scrolling
  • Must have (in technical jargon) "page-like things." I seriously think part of what enables us to get hypnotically involved in a book is the repeated act of turning pages. Perhaps a button you press on the side to "turn the page."
  • NO scrolling
  • Books have had a long time to become the size they are. It should be about the size and weight of a medium paperback.
  • Must be fast and cheap to d/l a book. I mean, their distribution cost for this text file is nil, so I'm not going to pay 6.95 for it.
  • Did I address the scrolling issue?
I read ~ 2-3 books a week, and I'm pretty sure my vision would be totally shot if I spent that much time continuously reading text off a CRT (even a nice big 21"). Ok, so I spend way more time than that *looking* at CRT's, but not reading text continuously :-) So it has to read like printed paper too.

And, even with all that, I'd still probably only read dead-tree books anyway. They're just so nice to have...

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Like was mentioned, it's a good ide... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by superfly on Tue Mar 14, 2000 at 01:15:25 AM EST


It addresses a lot of your points. I'm not sure how the display is, though. Probably these things will really take off once they start using Xerox PARC's funky epaper or something like it.

[ Parent ]
Re: Like was mentioned, it's a good ide... (none / 0) (#10)
by hattig on Tue Mar 14, 2000 at 05:21:57 AM EST

That device looks like a brain dead Palm pilot - and considering how brain dead they already are... :-)

If I was going to be able to read a book on an electronic device, then the text has to be legible. Not 106dpi, (as the above device is) but 200dpi at the very least. Microsofts 'innovation' Cleartype increases horizontal resolution by a factor of 3, but only on colour screens and only in certain conditions (black on white, or white on black, or greys), but the text does look better. I would prefer a 2x increase in resolution in both directions, but still in monochrome or 4 colours (basic smoothed fonts), and it would still take up less memory than the low-res colour display of the same physical dimensions. Of course, how many 1024x768 200dpi greyscale LCD displays do you see?

Also, the background has to be reflective, like paper. A backlight will hurt the eyes in the end. The background has to be nearly white, although a bit of yellow has never done a book any harm. Crisp fonts are the order of the day, and as rusty says, no scrolling! The screen should be the size of a paperback, and the device should be thinner. The touch screen abilities were a good idea on the other device, and the margin notes feature.

As for distributing books... I am sure that virtually any media would allow it. Soon you could walk into your local bookstore and see book boxes - paperback sized boxes that contain the tiny Secure Digital Memory Card (Panasonic et al. open spec) or Memory Stick (Sony, proprietary) which you plug into your e-book and download the book. The book distributors are not going to want their book copied, and they will have learnt from MP3 that it is not a good idea to use a non-secure format for ebook distribution.

How large is an e-book? Assuming 500 pages, at 50 lines per page and 50 characters per line, and lots of formatting tags and the like, and maybe some pictures and maps and the like... not more than 4 to 8 Mb. You can't get the aforementioned devices in less than 16 Mb sizes, and the cost of them has to come down enough to be sold as books (maybe ROMs in SD or Stick format would be a better idea). Of course, on-line distribution will be a lot cheaper and easier, but if you delete the book, then you won't have it anymore.

Enough Rambling... :-)

[ Parent ]

Oh, goody (none / 0) (#6)
by Inoshiro on Mon Mar 13, 2000 at 07:35:58 PM EST

66 whole pages. And for only 2.50 USD yet. Does anyone else feel this is using a name to sell thing?

[ イノシロ ]
Stephen King to Release Online Book Today | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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