The first installment of Stephen King’s new serial novel "The Plant" was yesterday made available for download on his Web site in a move that could signal the start of a publisher’s nightmare. According to Amazon.com – the Internet's largest retailer of books, music and video, and providers of the online payment system for "The Plant" – there had been 41,000 downloads by mid afternoon. Of that number, 32,000, or 78 per cent, were paid for via Amazon.com, said Kathy Kinney, a spokeswoman for the online retailer. She said the remaining 9,000 copies were either downloaded for free or will be paid for later. King, who is committed to publishing at least the first two installments, warned readers that at least 75 per cent of those who download the episodes must pay $1 if the full story is to make its way to the Web. "If you pay, the story rolls. If you don't, the story folds," he explains on his site. Making the rounds of the US morning talk shows to highlight the publishing experiment, King explained he was testing behaviour on the Internet. When asked what he would do if people refused to honour the payment system he set up on his Web site, King told NBC's Today Show, "I'm a storyteller. I'll put my guitar on my shoulder and walk down the road, which I think publishers would really love." "Publishers would really love it if this thing fell on its face," he said.