The e-book revolution has been delayed.
Nearly two years after Stephen King's much-heralded appearance on the Web with his short story Riding the Bullet, the horror writer now is offering the same story the old-fashioned way: between two covers. Riding the Bullet is one of 14 dark tales included in King's latest book, Everything's Eventual (Scribner, $28, 459 pp).
"There is something weirdly decadent about appearing on the cover of a major magazine simply because you used an alternative route into the marketplace," writes King in the collection's introduction. "Do I want to know how many of the readers who downloaded Riding the Bullet actually read Riding the Bullet? I do not. I think I might be extremely disappointed." King's subsequent e-publishing effort, an attempt to sell a serialized novel via the Internet, was even more disappointing: After posting only six chapters, King stopped offering installments of The Plant on his Web site because two few people were paying for them.
Most of the stories in Everything's Eventual have also been published before albeit in more conventional venues. The 1996 O. Henry Award-winning The Man in the Black Suit, a tribute to Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, first appeared in the New Yorker.
Meanwhile MightyWords, Inc., the Internet company that inspired King's first foray on the Web has folded.
Does this mean that the idea of e-books is dead? Hardly. Stay tuned for "electronic ink." According to a recent Wall Street Journal article on the future of e-books, that may be the technological breakthrough that finally will have us reading on electronic devices. By 2005, James Bandler reports, E Ink Corp of Cambridge, Mass., plans to unveil "multipurpose reading devices on a lightweight plastic material that can be rolled up and placed in a pocket."
_ Margo Hammond, Book Editor