The Future of Reading

Today is the first day in the Google Books game:

Part of what they want you to do is answer questions by searching in Google Books (which I found pretty easy), and then submit a 50 word essay on the future of reading. 50 words? Yeah, right. Well, you can submit a new essay everyday, so I will keep thinking about it. Meanwhile, here is my much longer essay that will not make the cut, but which was what I really wanted to say. Really, it is more of a short story than an essay, but it seemed to be what the topic demanded. What do you think is the future of reading? Go, play the game and share your thoughts with the rest of us. It’ll be fun!


The question simmered in my brain, almost a physical sensation. It was frustrating. For so many things, the answers were so common, so near the top of the multicolored visual webs that displayed the Net that they floated ready to hand. This one wasn’t. I was sure the answer was there, but after surfing the Net, riffling through the clumps and clusters of words and pictures that seemed to appear on my eyes themselves, grabbing thread after thread with my eyes, tracking them, pinning spots for attention, backtracking, and doing it again, but never quite finding what I sought, well, it was time for a break. I stretched, and stood up.

“Mommy, done now? Still need quiet?”

“Oh, Bella, you were a very good girl. Mommy’s having a little trouble, but she’ll find what she needs later. You deserve a reward. What do you think would be good?”

“Story! Story! Read me a story, Mommy!” She hopped up and down, and grabbed at my leg.

“K, k, k, which one?” I picked her up and hugged her, as she squirmed to the floor again.

“Mother Goose! Read me Mother Goose.”

“If that’s what you want, then let’s do it. Bring the Book over here, k?” Bella ran to grab the sheet of plasfilm in her little fist, ran back, shoved it at me, dropping it as she jumped onto the cushion and snuggled up into my arms.

It’s a good thing these are so sturdy, I thought to myself! She really crumpled it up good. I ran a finger along the back of the sheet to tell it to smooth itself out and stiffen into reading mode. The edges of the sheet puffed up slightly to make it easy to grip.

“Alright, here we go.” I tapped quickly through the opening menu to tell the Book we were using manual mode, since I was tired of using my implants today, then selected Mother Goose from the top menu. We read this so often it never made it very deep into the menus.

As soon as Mother Goose rezzed above the Book, Bella grabbed at it. “Foo Foo!” Nothing happened. “Bella, a little slower. Speak clearly. Can you say ‘Little Bunny Foo Foo’?” Bella repeated the phrase slowly. She could speak very clearly when there was something she wanted.

Quickly, before the Book started reading, I stroked the page to set it to music and video. Mother Goose shrank back into the corner of the display, as if she was watching, while the Blue Fairy and the rabbit appeared in the frame and than rezzed into 3d. As the words floated beneath them and the music started, Bella and I sang along, with Bella bopping me on the head when the field mice appeared.

“Ouch, Bella! Gentle!”

“Mommy, what’s a goon?”

“Oh, that’s an old word, Bella, from a long time ago. Let’s find out.”

I paused the Book by waving my hand through the display, tapped to save our place, then doubletapped on the word “goon”. I could have used a finger-gesture to set the retrieved definitions to child-safe, but because of the context, the Book would do that automatically, thank goodness. I remember when I was a child and my parents had to be pretty careful! This is so much easier, being able to set the age level for all the readers using the Book, and define collections to match the reader.

“Goon. A silly or awkward person,” the Book read.

“Mommy, what’s awkward?”

“Bella! Do you want to read the book or not? Silly. You know what silly means, don’t you?” I started to tickle Bella, who giggled and grabbed my hands.

“K, k, silly Mommy. Book!”

I cancelled the reference query, and the Blue Fairy rezzed again, frowning at Bunny Foo Foo, right where we had left off.


2 responses to “The Future of Reading

  1. So…have you read Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson??? 🙂


    • Oops! It shows, I guess? Ouch. Believe it or not, Neal Stephenson and I were in the same high school at the same time, but I was a senior and he was a sophomore, and I never even noticed him. Until he started writing. WOW! I had not intent to filch or permute his vision, but I love Diamond Age so I am sure it influenced my vision of reading in the future.


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