The ‘Future Book’ is here, but it’s not what we expected
Visionaries thought technology would change books. Instead, it’s changed everything about publishing a book.
For almost 300 years, books have been the primary means of gathering and sharing information. They were the way that people learned, shared stories, and spent their free time, but has their time come and gone? The technological age has introduced a new way to read that has redefined how we think about books.
In the last decade, the field of e-readers has exploded in popularity. It is now more common for people to buy a tablet or laptop than to purchase a traditional hardcover book. The flexibility and convenience offered by these devices, such as being able to download a book instantly onto an iPad and read it on a bus, are part of what draws people to them. Indeed, the future of books, as we know them, seems to have changed.
What does the future book really hold? What’s in store for books? The trend is moving towards the eBook as a major source for younger readers. But why are people moving towards eBooks? It is said that eBooks are easily obtainable. With the advent of the cloud, cloud-based books are also available online, in a similar way to the downloadable eBooks from retailers. Audio books are another form of digital seller that holds numerous benefits. Audio books are a great way to increase your understanding of a specific topic or theme without having to focus all of your attention on the book alone. Also readers and writers are benefiting from AI and the digital age.
Everything has changed. So what will become of the Future Book?
The Future Book was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story —the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of machine learned words would wind itself out before your very eyes.
But What if?
Future: We’re here.
It’s 2053. You stroll into the Center of Mind Chip. There you can purchase a brain chip to augment your intelligence or a bundle of several such chips. People wishing for intellectual-like storytelling abilities can purchase the “storytime” chip while those in the market for supreme serenity can now buy “Zen Garden.” And that’s just the beginning. Enhanced attention, virtuoso musical abilities, mathematical abilities, and so much more are all there for the choosing! Along with the chips, it will be connected through our eye glasses for the visual content that you desire. Similar to the apps on your phones, you can now swipe to a program which your mind is in charge and can take you to. Which would you pick?
Welcome! You have chosen the “storytime” chip. You are now able to create stories within a limited time with the help of AI. This also forms into a device that is connected to a library where all data is stored for those who have chosen the “storytime” chip.
You are currently in “The Library of Nonhuman Books.” The Library of Nonhuman Books is a custom-designed, autonomous art-system which uses Artificial Intelligence to make new books from existing publications and incoming stories.
Are you interested in poetries? The Library of Nonhuman Books was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé. Stéphane Mallarmé was a French poet who knew the relation between empty space and silence. Mallarmé believed that a poem was more than a mere arrangement of words. He suggests that readers view “Un coup de Dés,” he refers to the act of writing as a “musical score, making the page into a stage in which language performs” (Borsuk, 135). With our “storytime” chip, you can now think and possibly create poems or stories like Mallarmé and any of your other favorite authors. As long as we see a reference of the author’s book, we can help you.
“Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.”
—Stéphane Mallarmé, “The Book, Spiritual Instrument”
Inspired by Mallarmé, at the center of this system is a reading machine which leverages Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing to find new meanings hidden within books. Through a process of erasure, the machine algorithmically redacts the text leaving only the selected words. And an internet search retrieves an image to illustrate the page based on the resulting text. One every page is processed, the newly ‘illuminated’ books are automatically uploaded to print-on-demand services and the resulting volume is added to the Library of Nonhuman Books. This reading machine is mainly used to create new poems. Through all of these multiple poems there are a lot of white spaces and Mallarmé considered these white spaces to be integral parts of the poem, “water around continents,” something that makes the form more apparent. Not only are poems the only available context in these chips. Like Mallarmé, Carrión explains “A book is a sequence of spaces” (Borsuk, 147).
“Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment—a book is also a sequence of moments.
• • •
A book is not a case of words, nor a bag of words, nor a bearer of words.”
—Ulises Carrión, “The New Art of Making Books”
Through your “storytime” chip you can now scroll through the lens of our eye glasses to create your own and through AI or read the books that are provided on our shelf.
Would you take this chance to change the future of books?
Note: Personal point of view
I love reading books but not making my own. I remember when my dad read to me as a little girl. When we exhausted my bookshelf, he would make up his own stories. Eventually, he grew tired of maintaining hundreds of different narratives about a knight, princess, dragon, etc. girl. So he took me to the library, which opened up a new world of stories and changed my life. I remember as I grew older, every few months, someone brought up the idea that with eBooks becoming more popular, libraries are quickly on their way to becoming obsolete. Publishers will stop printing books. The literary world as we know it will end. What these futurists forget is that libraries are the center of our culture. Libraries will always exist, in some form, because they are the center of our society—communities in and of themselves offering a breathing space for the old and the young, the tired and the energized, not to mention a safe place for weary moms and their kids to gather and enjoy. I look back to the simpler times when there were high stacks of books on the shelf, and it would break my neck back from looking up so high. I would be in awe of how many books the library carried. To the present day, it has become more common to bend my neck down where everything is now on my device.
I don’t mind, since it’s convenient and allows easy access. I honestly didn’t know what to write about, but since this is fictional, it shouldn’t be coming true. As so many authors of dystopian storytellers have warned us, I fear that this could become real. For example, I’ve seen news and articles about Elon Musk’s brain chip. “Neuralink” is Musk’s neural interface technology company. He’s developing a device that would be embedded in a person’s brain, recording brain activity and potentially stimulating it. Musk has compared the technology to a “FitBit in your skull.”
I can see it happening for people who want to find out early on in their life about diseases and be able to cure them quicker. When I wrote about this fictional story of “Mind Chip,” it was from the article about Elon Musk. I just took it to another level, as if we were turning into robots. If we had something so small implanted into our bodies, there would be no point in jobs and careers in life because everyone “could” have access to it. And the government would be the one who implanted those chips into your brain, neck, or arm if it was a world of mind control. Okay, I’m just making this more complicated. Overall, I hope that this world won’t have to come to that. To be more realistic, I think books won’t ultimately come to an end, as I mentioned at the beginning of my notes. Books are the center of our society.
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book (the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series). Illustrated, The MIT Press, 2018.
“Elon Musk’s Brain Chip Firm Neuralink Lines up Clinical Trials in Humans.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Jan. 2022, www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jan/20/elon-musk-brain-chip-firm-neuralink-lines-up-clinical-trials-in-humans.