Cover of the original e-book release
|1982; 1983; 1985; 2000|
The Plant is an unfinished serial novel published by Stephen King in 1982–85 privately and in 2000 as a commercial e-book. The story, told in epistolary format consisting entirely of letters, memos and correspondence, is about an editor in a paperback publishing house who gets a manuscript from what appears to be a crackpot. The manuscript is about magic, but it also contains photographs that seem very real. The editor writes the author a rejection slip, but because of the photographs, he also informs the police where the author lives. This enrages the author, who sends a mysterious plant to the editor's office.
King wrote a few parts of a story by the same name and sent them out as chapbooks to his friends, instead of Christmas cards, in 1982, 1983, and 1985. Philtrum Press produced just three installments before the story was shelved, and the original editions have been hotly sought-after collector's items.
In 2000, King published the novella Riding the Bullet over the Internet, making it the world's first mass market e-book. However, there were technical problems with downloading, and hackers eventually cracked the encryption. Later that year, King released The Plant directly via his website, unencrypted and in installments. People could pay a one-dollar fee for each installment using the honor system. King threatened, however, to drop the project if the percentage of paying readers fell below 75 percent. He viewed the release as an experiment in alternate forms of distribution, writing on his website at the time, "My friends, we have the chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare."
The book received more than the desired 75 percent for its first installment, but it fell to 70 percent after installment two. With the third installment, the numbers surged back to 75 percent. All told, after six installments, King revealed that he'd made nearly half a million dollars from the release of The Plant, in what has been called his e-book experiment.
The last installment was published on December 18, 2000. The book is yet to be completed. The original installments are now available free of charge on Stephen King's official website.
|Original chapbooks||Ebook installments|
|Part one (November 1982)||Installment one (July 2000)|
|Installment two (August 2000)|
|Part two (November 1983)|
|Installment three (September 2000)|
|Part three (November 1985)|
|Installment four (October 2000)|
|Installment five (November 2000)|
|Installment six (December 2000)|
- Dubner, Stephen J. (2000-08-13). "What is Stephen King trying to prove?". New York Times Magazine.
- "Stephen King reveals The Plant profit: Not 'Big Publishing's worst nightmare' after all", The Register, 7 February 2001
- "Stephen King's 'Plant' Uprooted". Wired. 28 November 2000.
- "The Plant: Zenith Rising" (PDF). StephenKing.com.