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Stephen King's foray into online publishing has come to an abrupt halt after sales of instalments of the book fell to levels his assistant said threatened the project.

King decided to make the book, called The Plant, available as a free download. He left it to readers to chose whether they would pay for what they read, but said he would only keep writing if at least 75 per cent of downloads were paid for.

The first three chapters cost $1 each, and then the price rose to $2 per chapter. At first just over 75 per cent of punters were happy to part with their cash, but the proportion of payers slipped steadily.

The second chapters got a 70 per cent payment rate, but by the fourth only 46 per cent were feeling honest, and as promised, King stopped writing.

He said on the site that the book would be finished at some stage, but that he needed to get back to more conventional books. ®

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