On the Bookseller’s BookshelfSeptember 20, 2011
I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and the future lately because everyone seems to want me to be scared of the eBook. It’s all doom and gloom and crying over the loss of the hardcover. But where’s the excitement about what’s to come? Where’s the energy over being part of the first major change in the book form since Gutenberg?
I usually process major issues by reading about them, and this technology shift is no exception. I love the two books I’m focusing on today because they frame the future with curiosity rather than fear: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Last American Novel, an essay collection.
Ready Player One is a fun, futuristic novel saturated with ’80s trivia. It’s intensely readable and story-driven, which is a feat, considering it’s basically about gaming (something I’ve never really been into) and packed with ’80s references (many of which I only vaguely understood). The ’80s were a time when the future seemed bright … neon bright. What better decade to use to remind us to have fun with technology, to embrace it?
The Last American Novel is a collection of very short essays (just a few pages each — perfect for when you don’t have much time) that imagine how story might change as we move away from the printed word and toward the eBook. It’s an incredibly readable, lovely mix of perspectives about what story will become as our concept of the book changes. Does the future include paper? No one is sure, but I’m loving getting different thoughts on the subject. I think Joe Meno’s essay sums it up best:
“The idea of books — what is a book, and what isn’t — is one of the most interesting questions in the world to me, because there isn’t an answer, and by simply trying to find one, an entire world of imaginative possibilities reveals itself to us.”
I hope we can start to see the future this way — full of imaginative possibility. Ready Player One and The Last American Novel have helped me, at least, to start that process.