We are expecting our first child, a girl, in September ‘17. And, as I sit here reflecting on the oncoming train that is fatherhood, my thoughts converge around my work in innovation and technological trends — what kind of environment, society will my daughter grow up in? These are my musings on how the future will manifest in the life of my daughter.
My daughter is now 8 and she has already learned to appreciate the imaginary world of books as I had when I was a child. I always find her pretty little head buried in yet another adventure or detective story. But there are no fluttering sounds of paper turning, or the clean woody smell of a new book wafting through the air. The only book she has learned to read are just digital words spread out before her in the air through her AR glasses, a book she flips through with sharp, deliberate flicks of her eyes, page after page.
Today we don’t even call them e-books anymore. To her they are just books, the only thing she’s ever known. The other stuff, the printed, static, stale versions that used to sit on shelves, the stuff with substance, have long been cast out except for a select few mementos, i.e. museum pieces, gathering dust in a box at the bottom of our closet. I keep them around just to show her what a real book used to be. However, even I got rid of my tablet a few years back. Who needs to hold an e-book when we can just read them right before us?
After dinner, with her homework done, she crawls up next to me on the couch, clutching her pint-sized glasses, while handing me adult-size one. “Dad, can I see what you are reading?” she asks. “Sure pumpkin,” I reply, and quickly share my screen with hers, activated through two quick motions with my fingers in the air. Peering at the book I’m studing, “What does hypochondriac mean?”, she asks, but she’s not asking me. Google replies without me even blinking.
Last Saturday I took her to a real bookstore, which are all fundamentally used bookstores by now. Publishing houses have long since stopped printing physical editions except as specialty or collector items at exorbitant prices. Bookstores are now the realm of the curio, the collector, the nostalgic.
It was her first time.
When we first stepped into the dim store, washed over by dust and a slightly musty odor, she thought it was a shop for antiques or perhaps a museum. I guess that’s not too far from the truth. Stacks with no particular order, yellowed pages and cracked covers, the last resting place of physical books before they are sent to be buried in ash. A last gasp still seeking an owner. She looks at me with that glance of disgust and trepidation.
“Did you know that this is how I used to read books when I was your age?” I remarked, “I used to beg my parents to buy me more and more books, or take me to the library to borrow a new set. I would have stacks of these at home and read them over and over again, caressing each page, eagerly awaiting the adventure that each one promised.”
“What’s a library?” she stares at me curiously.