Prater's Book Store in Clayton, Ga., sends me promotional e-mails. Since I'm generally too hurried to send a remove-me request, I delete them as they arrive. Nonetheless, the subject line - MAJOR TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH - of one of these nuggets of in-box irritation prompts me to open the e-mail:
Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK). The BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology. No wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover!
Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere ... yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.
It sounds fantastic. But when I go to a bookstore to make my purchase, all the catchy titles and colorful covers distract me. I travel down the categorized aisles, lifting selections from shelves and skimming back-cover copy.
Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially-numbered sheets of paper, each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half.
Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.
Standing near the customer service desk, I overhear a woman complaining. Waving a flat, gray, electronic contraption, she laments to the clerk, "No matter what I do, it won't turn to the next page. It won't go to the previous one, either."
A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.
An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK in the exact place you left it in a previous session - even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOKmarks can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once.
She continues speaking passionately, her voice rising and falling and trilling with frustration. I roll my eyes, judging my fellow customer's reaction to far exceed the magnitude of her issue. "I've tried charging it, taking the battery out, everything," she dramatically continues.
The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, although like other display devices it can be unusable if dropped overboard.
"I paid a lot of money for this thing and I expect it to work," the customer fumes.
Portable, durable and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.
A clerk packs my two new paperbacks into a bag. I look at her and nod toward the irate customer. "You know," I say, sharing my new perspective, thanks to Prater's, "if she had bought a BOOK that wouldn't have happened. My BOOK pages never freeze."
"Oh, but the screen is awfully easy on the eyes," the cashier counters, referring to the gadget.
"But it doesn't look like it's doing much for her brain," I nimbly replied.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, GA. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)