Raise your hand if you've ever tried reading a book while walking down the street.
Mine would be up except that I need fingers to type. Many times, especially back during my commuting to the Loop days, I'd have my nose in a book through the entirety of my commute. Chicago is a lovely city, but sometimes, the world in my current book of choice was preferable to my immediate surroundings.
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Cell phones and tablets have made reading on the go easier than ever. Waiting in line at the deli counter? Just open your reading app of choice and wait your turn. Everyone else is staring at their phones anyway, so you won't even look weird.
But there's technology arriving that may make reading on the go even easier: Google Glass.
Google Glass is essentially a computer display built into glasses frames. The display is set in the upper right corner of your vision, and using voice commands, you can tell Google Glass to take pictures, record video, give directions or to search for information about what you're looking at. Google has recently finished taking applications for the right to buy the first models off the line (at $1,500 a pop), and it's expected that they'll be in consumers' hands by the end of 2013.
While there's no reports of Google Glass shipping with a reading app, it has to be only a matter of time before such functionality appears through this device or another. Imagine having your book hover in front of your gaze every waking moment.
In a way, it sounds pretty awesome. You could get away with reading while sitting in extra boring faculty meetings or family dinners. For me, the chief benefit might be avoiding the inevitable collision between the book I'm reading and my face when I fall asleep every night.
Google's goal is to make our interactions with the Internet "frictionless," no resistance between us and its use. Even with our phones, we have to fish them out of pockets or purses and hold them with our clumsy hands. Google Glass makes all that go away.
Google Glass seeks to layer the power of the Internet over reality. They see this as an enhancement to our lives. Imagine walking in downtown Chicago and noticing a building and wondering if maybe it was designed by Louis Sullivan. You remember once hearing about his elaborate iron scrollwork, and that's what you're seeing in front of you. With Google Glass, you just look up and ask if Sullivan designed the building, and you get an answer and you move on, satisfied.
But without Google Glass, you continue to look and think. You'll try to recall what you know and what you've seen. You remember that time you took the Chicago River architectural tour. You — working alone — will process what is in front of you and you will develop an answer to your own question.
That answer may be wrong, but who cares? It's the process that makes us human, that lets us know we're living.
To make reading frictionless is to diminish the process and power of reading. Tell me there isn't something meaningful about having to choose between being in the world at large or the world in between the pages. When I used to read on the way to work, the whole point was to stay in that world between the pages to escape reality for just a bit longer.
Friction makes heat. Removing it from our lives will leave us a little colder.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
2. "Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries" by Robert Goldsborough
3. "Streets of the Near West Side" by William S. Bike
4. "Breakdown" by Sara Paretsky