Playing By The Book

I am a slow adopter in almost every sense. This has less to do with grand theories about the slow unraveling of polite society than it does with pure laziness. I can’t be bothered to read manuals and I’m annoyed all-out-of-proportion with the seemingly endless proliferation of objects in my life that require near daily charging and upgrading. I love books not just because I enjoy their heft and smell, but also because as someone astute once noted, “Books boot instantly and run on available light.”

When I do occasionally give in to an impulsive itch and download something onto my husband’s iPad, I nearly always walk away from the experience with a new set of complaints (It’s too hard to highlight, I can’t flip around easily, the screen is always too bright or to dark . . .). After much deliberation, I remain convinced that what you sacrifice in aesthetics and enjoyment when reading on an e-reader more than cancels out whatever convenience they might offer. But my feelings about electronic books might change if they did something to truly transform the way we read and, according to a recent article in The Atlantic, they may be on the cusp of doing just that:

Device 6 is a metaphysical [e-thriller] in which the world is made almost entirely from words. Playing it is like reading a book—except, in this book, the words veer off in unexpected directions, rather than progressing in orderly fashion down the page. When Anna, the game’s protagonist, turns a corner in the narrative, the text does too, swerving off to one side at a right angle, forcing the player to rotate the screen.

Our story begins when Anna awakes in an unfamiliar room. She is alone on an apparently deserted island, with no recollection of how she got there. The runaway words of Device 6 relate the story of Anna’s attempt to unravel the mystery and escape from the island, but as you swipe to follow them, you realize that they are simultaneously drawing a map. Long, trailing sentences make corridors; blocks of type form rooms. As you move forward in narrative time, you also advance in geographic space.

Books like this will likely never be a substitute for “real” reading, but for bookworms like me they might just be the next best thing to an XBox and that I can get behind.