Is This “Self-Destructing” Book The Future Of Reading?

Author James Patterson’s new thriller might be a sign of e-books to come.

image via youtube screen capture

I’ve never read anything by James Patterson, author of the massively popular Alex Cross series, as well as numerous other bestselling thrillers and mystery stories. But, after hearing how his latest book is being promoted, I’ll admit, I’m intrigued. For Patterson’s upcoming Private Vegas, marketing company Mother New York rolled out a campaign that is charmingly novel in the immediate, and has the possibility to be much more impactful in the long term.

As Design Boom reports:

… [T]he famed american author has decided to take the usual eagerness of peeling through the pages of one of his novels to an unprecedented level. adrenaline-loving enthusiasts will have to race against the clock for the ‘most thrilling reading experience ever’ — a self-destructing book that disappears in just 24 hours.

A gimmick, to be sure, but an interesting one. As Mother New York explains, there are two routes thrill-seeking readers can take. The first, humorous (and expensive):

For $294,038 one lucky reader will be able to purchase the book along with a private trip to an undisclosed luxury location, a 5-course dinner with Patterson, gold binoculars to read from a safe distance and a SWAT team for book handling.

But it’s the second option that has, I think, the potential to be much more than a one-off promotional trick. Continues Mother New York:

The second version is a free, digital book released through a web application. 1,000 readers in the U.S. will have 24 hours to race to the end of the book before it disappears in an arresting fashion.

Can’t finish the book in less than 24 hours? Tough. It’s gone.

What's more, the 1,000 readers who are selected for this pre-release opportunity (the book goes on sale to the general public next week) are able to track one another’s progress through the book’s website, and even “steal” time from other participants to “add more tension.” Suddenly, the act of reading a thriller becomes, in and of itself, a thrilling experience. But while the self-destructing Private Vegas is only available for a select cohort of pre-release readers who have requested download codes from the book’s site, the possibilities raised in this instance could be used to enhance the overall experience of reading e-books for everyone in the future.

Imagine, for example, an e-book that isn’t temporally constrained, like Patterson’s, but is instead affected by the geographic location of the reader – chapters might remain locked until you arrive at a certain place or places. Or books for which progress is conditional upon the reader’s completing puzzles or tasks related to the plot – in essence “gamifying” what it means to read a book.

It is, for some, a possibility that would ruin what would otherwise be a relaxing past time. For others, a book’s extra-textural elements could transform reading into a more visceral, immediate – and ultimately, pleasurable – experience. Either way, I’m willing to bet that a 24 hour “self-destructing book” is only the start.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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