Feel of a Book

What does the Captain of an advanced spaceship do in his downtime? 

He enjoys a book of course, and it has to be a real one.  The touch, the smell, the… well… read the story to see…

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(c) 2016 Simon Goodson.
Story Disclaimer

Feel of a Book

He stood in his quarters, stress already dropping off his shoulders.  Most of the room went unnoticed.  His focus was on a single object laying atop the table beside his comfortable armchair.  A new book by his favourite author.

His break would only last thirty minutes but he still moved slowly, letting his hand brush across the top of the book before he sat down beside it.  Then he leaned forward, excitement bubbling through him, and picked up the tome.  He felt the weight of it, the heavy cover, the touch of the paper still locked away inside.

He brought the book closer, inhaling deeply.  His fingers continued to trace the outside, desperate to get inside but he wouldn’t let them.  Not yet.

He settled back into his chair, placing the book reverentially on his lap.  He placed both hands on the book… then slowly opened the cover, feeling the spine’s resistance.  Now the book was truly his.  His and his alone.

He turned the pages quickly now, unable to resist, searching for the start of the story.  He found it and lifted the book closer, lost in the story within a few paragraphs.

Most people insisted on reading on screens, on handheld devices or by having the information projected directly into their minds.  He couldn’t fathom why.  Holding a real book, smelling it and seeing the words fixed on the page, made the process of reading so much more intense.  He’d tried to convince others but very few even listened.  Now he just accepted they would never understand what they were missing.

He continued to read.  Time slipped away…

He jumped as an alarm started to bleep.  Already?  Had it really been thirty minutes?  He checked the time.  No, it had been barely fifteen, but he couldn’t ignore the alert.  He had to respond immediately.  Even so, putting the book down was difficult.  His movements were reluctant.  He let his hand caress the cover once more before pulling away completely.

Then he reached under the table, pressing a button hidden from sight.  The room around him vanished to be replaced by the bridge of a starship.  The bridge crew snapped out salutes to him, their captain, before one of them outlined the latest emergency that needed his attention.  He shifted into work mode, fighting the part inside that wanted to return to the book immediately.

The bridge wasn’t real.  Not in the physical sense.  The Captain wasn’t really there, nor were any of the other crew.  They all lay in the heart of the ship, bodies locked in cold sleep while their minds crewed the ship.  The bridge was just a digital construct.

As were his quarters and everything within them.  Even the book.  With the Captain back on the bridge the book was held safely within the ship’s computers, every aspect of a real book digitally stored — right down to the new creases added by the Captain as he read.

The Captain would have it no other way.  He knew that the feel of reading a physical book was unbeatable… even a digitally recreated physical book.

The End

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