Technology, schmechnology: Whether you’re paging through a dog-eared copy of Carrie or clutching a computer, Stephen King can still scare the crap out of you. On March 14, Simon & Schuster released the best-selling author’s latest short story, ”Riding the Bullet” — exclusively for viewing on electronic publishing devices. If you can get past the swamped servers at such download sites as barnesandnoble.com or netLibrary.com (http://www.netlibrary. com) — from which 400,000 copies were ordered in the first day — you can read (but not print out) the horror maestro’s tale via Rocket eBook, PalmPilot, or PC. This is the first time a best-selling author has chosen to deliver his manuscript to readers in a digital-only format, an event that Simon & Schuster almost apologizes for. ”We hope people will forget the electronic-ness of all this,” frets Kate Tentler, publisher of S&S’ online division.
She needn’t worry. ”Bullet” is vintage, dust-off-the-night-light King, centering on Alan Parker, a college student who hitchhikes from Orono to Lewiston, Maine, after learning that his mother has suffered a stroke. The young man encounters a series of questionable characters, the most intriguing being a muscular, cigarette-huffing roughneck…whose body parts happen to be held together by heavy black stitches. Aside from screen glare and some distracting (yet reassuringly cute) icons, the experience of reading ”Bullet” electronically isn’t all that different from thumbing through a conventional book. More to the point, I had a lot more trouble entering sleep mode than my computer. A-