Concerning E-Books: Addressing Form and Content in Stephen King's the Plant
'[I] take an amateur's slightly crazed pleasure in the business side of what I do. I like to goof widdit, do a little media cross-pollination and envelope pushing.' Stephen King, Everything's Eventual (2002)
Stephen King has experimented widely with the material form of the text; he has published a serial novel, a pop-up book, many limited editions and, most recently, a series of comic books. However, the experiment which attracted the most media attention was the publication of his e-books. In 2000, King was approached by Scribner to provide a short story which could be published as an e-book. King complied by offering them 'Riding the Bullet' (2000), and the project went on to become phenomenally successful. He followed this first venture into e-publishing with a serially published novel, The Plant (2000), which he made available for download from his official website. Unlike Scribner's publication of 'Riding the Bullet', King chose to rely upon an honour system rather than encryption to protect his financial interest, and this, along with his decision to self-publish, caused a media storm. King's recurrent complaint throughout both e-publications was that the form had taken precedence over the content; he feared that no-one was reading the fiction. In this paper, I intend to re-evaluate King's e-publishing experiment, with an emphasis on The Plant, and I shall be weighting my analysis equally on both form and content in order to redress the balance. By exploring the text as a whole, I hope to show that the content is relevant to an understanding of the business decisions that were made, and that in analysing the form of the text, to the exclusion of the content, the bigger picture remains unobtainable.
Keywords: Stephen King, E-Books, The Plant, Publishing, Form and Content
Phd Student, Department of English Studies, University of Stirling