A novel set in the medium-flung future, with a plot that hinges on the theft of a kind of super-book. A super-book that is engrossing, interactive, networked; with pages that change before your eyes; that knows more or less everything. A science-fictional object that served as the lodestone for Amazon’s efforts, in the early 2000s, to develop an e-reader.
In his chronicle of the company, Brad Stone writes: “The early [Kindle] engineers thought of the fictitious textbook in the novel as a template for what they were creating.” A palimpsest of influence, visible to all Amazon customers who log in to manage their super-book stolen from the pages of science fiction. The Kindle isn’t the only piece of technology with these roots, of course—far from it.
As I’m writing this, Oculus VR has recently been acquired by Facebook, and in his note announcing the deal, Mark Zuckerberg writes: These dreams have shaped many of Silicon Valley’s ambitions, but usually, by the time a product emerges. Functioning into the world, its specific sources have been scrubbed away. Journalists and enthusiasts draw dotted lines, literary inspirations are outlined in oral histories recorded years later, but there’s no sticker on the box: As imagined by William Gibson!