Books and Bicycles and Amsterdam



So the ipad is the first thing in a long time that elicited two responses from me:  "we are living in the future!" and "I want one."  But seeing all the cool things it can do --especially with e-readers (electronic books)-- has got me wondering about the way of the future.  And what does all this have to do with Amsterdam?  Well, see, Amsterdam has a lot of bikes.

A lot of bikes, I tell you.  Everyone, everyone in the town travels by rickety, crankety old bicycle.  The streets are sometimes literally filled with bicycles, and they own the road to such a degree that cars simply have to crawl along while bicycles buzz all around them like a swarm of bees.  It's a sight to behold, especially because these cyclists aren't your dressed-in-racing-gear, helmet and superbad sunglasses type. They're more like this:
Middle-aged mothers taking their children home from school.  Businessmen in suits carrying briefcases.  Young hippies cruising along with armloads of organic produce.  Old women on their way home from afternoon tea.


And this mode of transportation is so healthy, and clean, and the air flows through your hair and you wave to people as you pass by and your kid is munching an apple in their little bicycle compartment and life...just seems better.  You know?

So I got feeling all regretful that big, belching cars have taken over the western world.  And then I heard about how Obama is backing a high-speed rail plan in the US, and how some of the world's foremost bazillionaire investors are betting the farm that trains and other old-fashioned, more efficient travel methods are the way of the future.  Maybe our infatuation with cars is wearing off?  Maybe we will actually return to our old traveling ways?  Could trains and bicycles actually be preferred in twenty years, or is this European model just impossible for places like the sprawling American West?

Then there are books.  I haven't been particularly impressed with any of the e-readers that have come out over the past few years but now the ipad has convinced me (and shocked me in doing so) that yes, maybe an electronic tablet rather than big heavy paper books will be the way of the future.  What if? What if?! And here's where Amsterdam comes in: everywhere we go, Marc and I try to get a book from that place about that place.  For example we bought The Jungle in Chicago, and the Tao te Ching in Beijing, and in Amsterdam we visited Anne Frank's house and bought a copy of her diary. (That's her house on the right. Totally unassuming, huh? You'd never even know it was there.  Which was, I guess, the whole point.)  Anyway it's a fun way to build up our library, I think; and we'll take books over "I [heart]" t-shirts or thimbles or statuettes any day.

But what if over the next decade books become as unnecessary as CDs?! Like, things you'll probably keep around the house, but you're not really gonna bother digging it out when you can access the same thing with one click on your ipod or computer.  I thought that would never, never happen to books but now.... it doesn't seem so impossible. I mean, history changes in tiny waves and in tidal waves.  Is our book-buying soon to be a thing of the past?

In ten years maybe we'll all be pedaling happily along on our bikes, and rather than carrying bags of all our crap, all we'll have is our ipad, containing all the things we ever read, owned, wrote, planned, watched, or dreamed. And maybe we will be able to charge the ipad's battery simply from the kinetic energy we are producing.  And maybe our book collection from all over the world will be obsolete, and take up a whole lotta space.

5 comments:

Super L said...

So I've been thinking about this a lot too. And here's what I thought. Books are more than just what you read in them, they are a way to show other people how smart you are because you read them. They are like a really obvious but seemingly subtle "here's what we like" section of your decor. And don't tell me everyone everywhere isn't prominently displaying at least three books that they've never ACTUALLY finished, but that they like people to THINK that they finished, because it makes them look more (smart, sophistocated, worldly, unworldly, pious, enlightened, informed, well-rounded, etc). So how do we do that with an iPad? Huh? Huh?!?

Of course, CD collections used to serve roughly the same purpose, and look how that turned out . . .

The Hodges Family said...

Times are changing....kinda creepy. Somethings always around the corner...just when you think we've got it all....

TheBenandKaties said...

I would love - no, let me fix that - LOVE to have a classroom set of Ipad's. With a master Ipad that I can use to monitor what my students are doing. All videos would be shown right on their own personal screen. Attendance/tardies would be a breeze. Imagine this scene-

Mr. Soelberg: (said with no discernible sarcasm, but the jaunty tilt of his eyebrows gives him away.) Did you log in? My record here shows that you did not log in.
Student protesting detention for poor attendance: "Uh..."

Assignments would be typed on the Ipad and submitted electronically, scored, and entered into a gradebook automatically. It would be glorious. That is the future that I'm really hoping for.

But. If Steve Jobs tries to take away my big, thick, cumbersome, dust collecting book collection; I'll punch him in his Adam's apple. (Pun definitely intended.)

(Just for the record, the word verification required to post this comment is "pophair")

KT and Lance said...

Let me know how it goes when you get one. I'm in mommy world, and have never even heard of it!!! I need you to keep up to date on Technology, so I don't become my mother!

Katie said...

Livi: I think we will just plug our ipads into our giant, wall screens, and set them to "visual bookshelf". problem solved!

Ben: yes, you will cling lovingly to your old-fashioned books, but when you die, will your kids or grandkids keep them around? It'd be like having the chance to inherit some grandpa's LP collection....who really wants it in this day and age?

Katey: I didn't say I was GETTING one, only that I wanted one! :) There's really no way I'm spending that much money....yet.