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October 23, 2009

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Publishers address e-book concerns

THE latest weapon in the publishing price wars: Stephen King.

Publisher Scribner announced on Wednesday that the digital edition of King's "Under the Dome," a 1,000-plus page novel, would not be released until December 24, virtually the end of the holiday season and a month after the hardcover.

E-books have already been delayed for Senator Edward Kennedy's "True Compass" and Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" as publishers try to prevent the cheaper digital editions from taking sales from hardcovers, which, until recently, cost more.

"Given the current state of the marketplace and trends in digital book pricing, we believe that this is the most appropriate publishing sequence for this particular 1,088-page work of fiction," said spokesman Adam Rothberg of Scribner's parent company, Simon & Schuster.

Thanks to an online price war among, and, the hardcover for "Under the Dome," "Going Rogue" and other popular November releases can be pre-ordered for US$9 or less, a major concern for publishers and independent booksellers, who can't afford to charge so little.

"Under the Dome" will have the same list price as the hardcover, US$35. and other online retailers have been offering best-selling e-editions for US$9.99, which publishers worry is unrealistically low.

King, ironically, is a pioneer and champion of e-books. In 2000, his e-novella "Riding the Bullet" was initially offered for free and became an online sensation.

In February 2009, when announced a new edition of its Kindle e-reader, King's novella "Ur" was offered exclusively through the device.


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