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Books May Be Dead in 2039, but Stories Live On

Mr. Smuk was exaggerating, of course; the first person to jailbreak the Verse was not a second grader but a middle-school student from Michoacán, Mexico. In the weeks following her success — as hacking how-tos flitted across social media and bootlegged narratives flooded the market — it became clear that the Verse was not destined to be the next big vehicle for proprietary storytelling, selling experiences for $49.99 each. Instead, to the collective chagrin of Amazon’s stockholders, it was destined to end proprietary storytelling.

Hacked Verses were followed by 3D-print replicas and drugstore knockoffs, which were followed by apps that allowed users to record and share their own sensory experiences, which produced the lawless infinity of virtual realities we know and love today. Eight years later, the Verse and its offspring have killed or at least critically wounded every other media format, from print publishing to Hollywood. Why read comic books when you can live them, leaping tall buildings in single bounds, doing whatever spiders can? Why sit in a movie theater, surrounded by the stale salt smell of popcorn, when you can ride the fury road yourself, shiny and chrome?

If you’re reading this today, it’s likely you’re an anachronism yourself: someone who grew up in the era of library cards and Sunday morning newspapers, someone who loved books too much to let them go. But what was it you loved, really? Surely it wasn’t the bleached-wood-pulp and acid-free ink, but what the books contained: the epics and tragedies, the memoirs and mysteries, the 10,000 ways we’ve escaped and explained the human experience for centuries. The stories.

And stories existed long before 1439. Stories are shape-shifters, infinite and immortal: They’ve been painted on the walls of Chauvet Cave and pressed

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