Cover of the original Kindle release
|Published in||Amazon Kindle|
|Publication date||February 12, 2009|
Ur is a novella by Stephen King. It was written exclusively for the Amazon Kindle platform, and became available for download on February 12, 2009. An audiobook edition was released on February 16, 2010 by Simon & Schuster Audio, read by Holter Graham.
It is 21,276 words. In a standard paperback edition (averaging 400 words/page), this would be about 53 pages.
King said, speaking about Ur:
The delivery mechanism to my mind is secondary for me as a writer. [...] But I did this once before with a story called Riding the Bullet and I never had so many guys in suits come up to me and ask me questions. But they didn't want to know about the story, they didn't want to know about the process, they wanted to know about the delivery system, but to me that's secondary. [...] I think people will be more interested in the business aspect of [Ur] than they will in the story. I would never have agreed to it if I didn't think it was a pretty good story. I decided I would like to write a story for the Kindle, but only if I could do one about the Kindle. Gadgets fascinate me, particularly if I can think of a way they might get weird. I had previously written about homicidal cars, sinister computers, and brain-destroying mobile phones; at the time the Amazon request came in, I'd been playing with an idea about a guy who starts getting e-mails from the dead. The story I wrote, Ur, was about an e-reader that can access books and newspapers from alternate worlds. I realized I might get trashed in some of the literary blogs, where I would be accused of shilling for Jeff Bezos & Co., but that didn't bother me much; in my career, I have been trashed by experts, and I'm still standing.
King's agent, Ralph Vicinanza, has stated that downloads of the novella at Amazon.com have reached "five figures" in about three weeks, while also denying the novella is an infomercial for the Kindle. King's publisher, Scribner, released Ur as an audiobook on February 16, 2010. In an interview in October 2010, King stated that he did not write the novella for the money: "I did it because it was interesting. I'm fairly prolific. It took three days, and I've made about $80,000. You can't get that for short fiction from Playboy or anybody else. It's ridiculous."
Wesley Smith, an English teacher at a college in Kentucky, wants to go "New School" and buys a Kindle. Due to a minor mistake in his credit card number, he is sent a pink Kindle (even though at the time, Kindles were always white). Slowly he realizes that this edition was meant for another Wesley Smith in a parallel universe.
Smith's Kindle has a peculiar function called UR that can search multiple universes for data. Smith finds four "new" books by Ernest Hemingway, books he wrote in an alternate dimension where he lived for three more years. Wesley also discovers yet another function concerning newspapers that were published in an alternate universe.
Smith tells a friend and a student about the Kindle. The three try to connect to a newspaper from an alternate reality but find to their horror that no papers are published that day. They learn that in the alternative reality, the world ended when the Cuban missile crisis escalated into a nuclear war.
Using the UR feature on his Kindle, Smith also discovers that a busload of students will be killed by a drunk driver in less than three days. He seeks out help to track down the drunk driver and keep her from killing the students. He is successful, although he realizes no one other than his two friends will know.
However, he is wrong. When he gets back from his success, he finds that low men in yellow coats are waiting for him, ready to punish him for using the forbidden function of the Kindle. He argues that perhaps this change was meant to happen – how else could he have gotten the Kindle otherwise? His argument does not fully sway the low men, but they feel it best to simply keep it from happening again by taking the Kindle, leaving Wesley alone to ponder the enormity of a world he thought he understood.
Connections to the Dark Tower
Once again, Stephen King establishes obvious connections to his magnum opus The Dark Tower; fans will not only recognize the eponymous location but also the Low Men in Yellow Coats as introduced in King's 1999 book Hearts in Atlantis.
- UR (Kindle Edition) at Amazon.com
- UR, Exclusively on Amazon's Kindle - Now Available from Stephen King's website
- "AOL to pay $315 million for Huffington Post". USA Today.[dead link]
- "Stephen King on the Kindle and the iPad". Entertainment Weekly. March 26, 2010.
- [dead link]
- "UR :: Read by Holter Graham :: The Simon & Schuster AudioBook". Promo.simonandschuster.com. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
- Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. (October 29, 2010). "Why E-Books Aren't Scary". The Wall Street Journal.