Author Stephen King touched off an explosion in the electronic book (e-book) world this week by breaking records and crashing Web sites as readers rushed to get a copy of his new horror novella.
The 16,000-word short story, Riding the Bullet, was published this week on the Web, and made available for sale in downloadable electronic format only. The response from King's fans stunned booksellers.
Barnesandnoble.com officials said that requests came in at a rate of two-and-a-half per second, and that the story had the biggest opening day for any book on the Web site, regardless of format. "If ever there was indication if the e-book was here, this is it," said Barnesandnoble.com spokesman, Gus Carlson. "It has arrived in a big way."
The e-book can be read on a PC or a special device from one of the participating vendors, which include Glassbook, netLibrary, Nuvomedia -- which makes the Rocket eBook -- Peanutpress.com, SoftBook Press and SoftLock.com.
The book was offered for $2.50 (£1.55), but Barnesandnoble.com and other booksellers were giving it away free on the first download day, which may have led to some of the crush. And, of course, King is one of the world's best-selling horror authors.
"It is a great advantage to have a leading author involved," said Kay Dangaard, spokeswoman for Amazon.com. "I don't think they're ever going to get rid of the paper book, but I think e-books will become a big part of the publishing world."
Barnesandnoble.com's Carlson said that the publicity may also draw in readers who are not necessarily King fans. "I think this shows that people, who may not even be Stephen King fans, are fascinated by the device," he said. "It's made people who may not have otherwise experimented with electronic books take a look."
And from all accounts, requests are still pouring in. Dangaard said requests had overwhelmed some of the companies that were providing downloads. Some time on Wednesday, Amazon began informing readers that it would take down their email address and get back to them as soon as they're able to process the requests.