King's story "Riding the Bullet" will be made available for download later this month through several Web distributors that will get a cut of sales in exchange for promoting the work on their sites. The book will not be made available in print; it will sell for $2.50.
The deal is an early test of both the consumer market for "e-books" and of SoftLock, which until now has focused on the business-to-business market. SoftLock will handle all aspects of the book campaign, offering copyright-protection technology, transaction processing and merchandising.
Simon & Schuster has offered works for sale over the Net before, announcing a charitable promotion late last year involving excerpts from works by King and other best-selling authors, such as Mary Higgins-Clark.
This is the first time a major author has distributed a book solely in digital form, according to Adam Rothberg, a company spokesman.