Devices such as Amazon’s Kindle are able constantly to collect data on their users while they are reading books. Your Kindle can monitor which parts of a book you read quickly, and which slowly; on which page you took a break, and on which sentence you abandoned the book, never to pick it up again. If Kindle was to be upgraded with face recognition software and biometric sensors, it would know how each sentence influenced your heart rate and blood pressure. It would know what made you laugh, what made you sad, what made you angry. Soon, books will read you while you are reading them. And whereas you quickly forget most of what you read, computer programs need never forget. Such data should eventually enable Amazon to choose books for you with uncanny precision. It will also allow Amazon to know exactly who you are, and how to press your emotional buttons.
I recently finished Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari with mixed feelings of awe, apprehension and sometimes even terror about the future that lies ahead. Of all the so fascinating topics he discusses, I can’t help but keep thinking about the times I started a book and got sooo bored that I needed to have a long discussion with myself about getting rid of my OCD of finishing all books I start. So what now?
What if the Kindle can read my face, my emotions, the speed I read, the phrases I stop at, the times I quit a book and the e-reader infallibly uses all these data to help me to pick only the ones that really suitsme? No more lazy readings, no more OCD to finish Crime and Punishment that bore me in the first chapter and its mere weight made me put it under the nightstand leg for long winter months as I couldn’t even hold it straight when in bed. But my first penniless summer of independence away from WiFi warm family home, I gave Raskolnikov a chance and my heart since then has a scar as Dostoevsky slowly embroidered some stitches there to fix my loneliness. What if Kindle suitably allowed my bliss, my arrogance and sloth to pick beautiful light weight book characters with external Eleanor Oliphants scars only because I finished them quickly ? (No offence Honeyman, I really enjoyed your writing).
A powerful book can grow you than simply suit you, will torture you, will be heavy in your hands, will allow you to put it in the freezer (as Joey did) only to help you mature and then you come back again. It is like when my grandma Froso shouted at the protagonist of The Bold and the Beautiful ‘No Ridge, don’t go, it’s a trap’ and she closed her eyes because she couldn’t bear to watch. I hope when books start reading me to read me well after having mapped all the algorithms and biochemical blah blah.
I am not a Luddite, forgive my doubts, I absolutely love the motto of No more Temps Perdu but… pff! a strange feeling of something lost stirs in my stomach. Could a person misses his boredom in the future? No, nonsense that cannot be. A but always a but… Like the toddler in the library nursery time the other day that read the B, the U and the T aloud pointing with his finger not letting us see the text and then got distracted by a seagull in the window and the book slipped from his tiny hands and fell on the floor. Was it a butterfly , a butcher or just buttocks we never learned. I guess the feedback in the app in that case would be that ‘The book didn’t keep his interest enough. Maybe the author should consider rewriting it.’