Books are strings of code. But they have mysterious properties—like strings of DNA. Somehow the author captures a fragment of the universe, unravels it into a one-dimensional sequence, squeezes it through a keyhole, and hopes that a three-dimensional vision emerges in the reader’s mind. The translation is never exact. In their combination of mortal, physical embodiment with immortal, disembodied knowledge, books have a life of their own. Are we scanning the books and leaving behind the souls? Or are we scanning the souls and leaving behind the books?
“We are not scanning all those books to be read by people,” an engineer revealed to me after lunch. “We are scanning them to be read by an AI.”