The techno prophets said the Internet would kill off the book, but, thanks to the web's insatiable appetite for content, the written word thrives.
Nevertheless, publishers are still unsure about the relationship between literature and the Internet. Maine's most famous son, Stephen King, went online last summer to sell his latest novel, The Plant . The feedback was mixed. Plenty of people were keen to download his words; fewer were willing to pay for the privilege.
More than 75 per cent of readers who logged on paid the $1 fee. By the fourth instalment, the figure had dropped to 46 per cent. King always maintained that if contributions for his efforts fell below 75 per cent, he'd leave the story unfinished.
"If you pay, the story rolls; if you don't, the story folds," he said. So far he's on his fifth instalment and, according to news coming from Maine, the sixth will be the last for a while.
Maybe the digital publisher LiveReads is on to a winner with its decision to buy the rights to one of Jack Kerouac's unpublished early works, Orpheus Emerged . For the next two years the novella will only be available online. Livereads says it is "dedicated to exploring the new frontier of reading" and is doing its utmost to make the most of the medium.
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