Stephen King Book Demand Jams E-Commerce Sites

Demand for horror novelist Stephen King’s 66-page new release — available only by download — has been so high that such e-tailers as Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com have been swamped.

“All the servers have reached 100 percent capacity and gone over several times today,” said Pat Eisemann, a spokeswoman for Scribner, the co-publisher with King’s Philtrum Press. “Everybody is pretty much crashing and you can’t get through.”

The new material, “Riding the Bullet,” went on sale Tuesday and was written by the horror master after a hit-and-run van accident almost killed him last summer. The price for download was set at $2.50 (US$), although Amazon reportedly will not charge customers at all.

Log Jam

“It’s far beyond anybody’s wildest expectations,” Keith Loris, chief executive of Maynard, Massachusetts-based SoftLock.com (OTCBB: SLCK), told the E-Commerce Times.

Softlock’s eMerchandising software works with Adobe’s (Nasdaq: ADBE) Acrobat Reader to allow readers to download the book.

Despite the glitches caused by the “unprecedented demand,” Loris is looking at the backlog as proof of the plan’s success. Even with the delay, he said, King fans can download the first seven pages, then click a button and get the rest e-mailed.

That’s “perfectly appropriate,” Loris said. “It’s designed to be e-mailed.”

New Trend

Loris expects publishers to follow Simon & Schuster’s lead and offer more books online. “We’re trying to replicate the experience of a bookstore,” he said. “The local bookstore doesn’t charge you money to get in the door.”

However, King himself is apparently being more careful. “While I think that the Internet and various computer applications for stories have great promise, I don’t think anything will replace the printed word and the bound book,” he reportedly said in a statement.

For Simon & Schuster, the response to the King book has “been tremendous,” said spokesman Adam Rothberg. “All the sites are reporting increased volume, traffic and orders filled.” Though the company hasn’t had a chance to analyze the sales volume, by all accounts it’s going well, he said in an interview. “Our own Web site has had four times the normal volume of traffic.”

“Definitely this is something we want to do more of,” said Rothberg, adding that his company is “talking to people” about another e-book, although none is in the works as of yet.

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