Our recommendations for your personal library
One generally prefers to avoid this gruesome form of transportation. But as of immediately, thanks to pioneer publishers, electronic Hollywood, ambulance-riding becomes a drug to savor. And your ticket to ride isn’t grievous bodily harm, but an Apple computer.

After sending Electronic Hollywood $16.95 via mail carrier, you receive a small box containing a 3.5-inch computer disk. On that disk is Ambulance, an electronic novel programmed by Jaime Levy, a twentysomething LA computer freak who’s already made her mark in the electronic publishing world as creator of electronic ‘zines Cyber Rag and Electronic Hollywood. Jack Ambulance into your disc drive and the screen begins pulsing with music (soundtrack by Mike Watt of fIREHOSE), images (by Jaime Hernandez, infamous Love & Rockets comic co-creator) and text (by Monica Moran, who runs the tres chic underground Sinistry Press).

Ambulance is a book program (Macromind Directors, for those tech-heads out there), meaning you pop it in and just start reading without any troublesome page-turning. But it’s also interactive—you choose your own digital route through the book: Read it straight through or stop and explore. The storyline concerns five young LA urbanites who, after a car crash, are picked up by a serial killer masquerading as an ambulance driver. So let’s say you want to track what happens to one character rather than follow several, or see what happened prior to certain events—simply click on the appropriate screen, of which there are over 400 to choose from. The program also allows you into more obscure places—for instance, you can click into characters’ heads to find out what they’re thinking.

So what we’ve got here is a package that draws from the appeal of graphic novels (long-format comics with lavish illustrations), TV (sound and movement), video games (you’re part of the plot) and, of course, that age-old gratification, reading. Publishing-wise, it’s also very cool because "printing" is done the same way you might copy a tape of your new Cypress Hill CD for a friend. When ‘zinemakers grasp this technology, Kinko’s will probably go out of business.

Currently there are ads for other independently produced electronic books in hyperculture mags like Mondo 2000 or Boing-Boing, and with major publishers like Random House, Simon and Schuster and Penguin exploring the electronic print field as well, it won’t be long before this stuff is everywhere. Soon you’ll even be able to order and receive books or magazines by modem, eliminating paper. Will this extinguish the need for libraries or bookstores? Let’s hope not.

By the by, if you feel left out because you’re not computer literate, it is the 1990s. The price of electronics is dropping (you can get a fully equipped Apple Macintosh for the price of a decent stereo) and the capabilities are astounding. These machines will take you places.