Thursday, March 7, 2013

Brick and Mortar intersects with Google

Classic irony, I suppose, that I am still thinking about this audiobook days after I finished it, in part because I want to find a copy of the book to help answer a few questions.  I'll admit I chose the book because it mentions a bookstore in the title.  The story itself follows Clay Jannon, a young man who ends up working the night shift at a strange bookstore, located next to a strip join, where he discovers that the few strange patrons are not actually purchasing the books on the low shelves in the front but are borrowing the books accessible only by ladder in the tall narrow space in the back.

Clay puts his computer skills to the test and discovers patterns to their book requests.  On his own, he tries to build business with some online ads, drawing only one potential customer--and this is where I need the print copy. I have no idea how any of the names are spelled. (Confession, I even had to look online for Clay's last name.  I'm going phonetic from this point on. Check my spelling.  I dare you) Cat Potente, a devoted Google employee who becomes his girlfriend and his partner on an adventure that leads to a five-hundred-year-old cult seeking answer, possibly answers to immortality, based on the life and the Codex left behind by a sixteenth century printer.

The plot was engaging, but I kept finding myself wanting to find other answers.  Is Gerritszoon the name of a real font? (Answer: Yes, it is.)  Are any of the other historical figures real? (Not sure yet.)  Is the representation of the Google culture accurate?  (I'm VERY curious to find out.)  What was the significance of the last text message Clay sent Cat (re: 25,000 miles)?  That's what I'm googling next!

I had already read of Google's project to convert all print books to digital, so the author had my buy-in there.  I especially loved the conclusion implicit in the novel: Those who love books, words, even individual letters, don't have to choose between one of the other.  It is perfectly acceptable to simultaneously enjoy paper and ink, digital format, and audio. (Whew! What a relief, since I already do!)  I also appreciated the irony that a simple, low-tech process not only succeeded where five hundred years of scholarship had failed but also at what all of Google's channeled resources could not accomplish.  At least for the time being, my world of books is safe and in good hands.


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