Bestselling author Stephen King will post the first instalment of his new novel The Plant online on 24 July in a direct online book selling experiment.
It will be available on his website, as will the second instalment on 21 August. The third instalment will appear only if the special payment system created for the project is a success.
The system relies on honest readers sending cheques and money orders, in a direct transaction between readers and author. The book will cost $1 per instalment.
"Pay and the story rolls. Steal and the story folds," warns King on his Web site.
King describes the story as "an epistolary [written as a series of letters] novel set in the early 1980s (before email in other words, and when even fax was a fringe technology)... The story is sort of funny and at the same time pretty gruesome."
He guarantees that he is committed to publishing the first two instalments online and will post more if they are popular and if readers come up with the money.
The end of traditional publishing is hardly nigh, though, says King: "I love my editors, and I like my publisher. I also like books. I'm a conservative on this particular subject and I love the smell of glue. But if I could break some trail for all the midlist writers, literary writers, and just plain marginalised writers who see a future outside the mainstream, that's great."
Take me to the e-commerce special.