Books, Soup/EN
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How to book a flight.

What kind of flyer are you? I hope you are not of the chatterbox type …although, if you are, please come forward: I think we need to talk. Not chat. Not screech. Talk.

Aircrafts seem to provide an ambience where some personality traits come to the surface more easily. I see my trips by plane as little social experiments. It’s like sitting and watching the fish go by in an overcrowded water tank (while being inside the tank as one of the fish).

Flying over the River Po (I suppose).

Flying over the River Po (I suppose).

I have the feeling that people tend to assess on a specific behavioural pattern when travelling by plane. I think it’s a consequence of mental dissociation. 
It is a psychological fact that your mind needs to dissociate from your situation when you are stuck in a metal box thousands of meters above ground level, confined in the smallest personal space you will ever tolerate in a social situation, with limitations as to standing up, turning, satisfying personal necessities (toilet, email-checks, uploads of selfies to Instagram).

Would you be conscious of your actual position all the time, you would probably freak out before take off, which wouldn’t make you the most pleasant travel companion in the eyes of your fellow passengers, believe me.
Luckily, dissociation makes the world a better place.
This basic coping mechanism allows humans to endure unnatural or uneasy situations – e.g. being forced to watch a wedding video or comforting your inconsolable friend while he/she goes on with that breakup story over and over again – with no significant psychic damage.

The way your mind enacts this mechanism when on board a plane defines your flying style. I am a nerdy-flyer, for instance, with an occasional narcoleptic-flyer variation. To me a plane is a comfy bubble where you can sit with your thoughts and read, write or conceive plans to conquer the world in the most fertile state of mind. As a book-lover with little time to read, I look forward to those few hours I can entirely dedicate to finish the book that has been sitting on my side table for weeks.

I fasten my seatbelt, cabin crew dim the lights, I spread the wings of my book or notebook and take off. I only glance outside of my bubble every so often, to enjoy the view – especially if we are flying over some mountains, a view I really miss in the flat lands I live in – or secretly observe my fellow passengers.

Airline catalogue vs book.

Airline catalogue vs book.

It was on one of these occasions, on my latest flight, that I raised my eyes and saw the guy next to me devouring his read.
It wasn’t “Anna Karenina”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Count of Monte Cristo” he was hooked on, but twelve pages of flashy low-cost airline catalogue, listing junk food and knickknack. He was really digging in, completely absorbed, as if he was trying to decipher nothing less than Dante’s Commedia or Joyce’s Ulysses.
I couldn’t help thinking: “this poor guy needs a book more badly than he needs a snack. Somebody should hand him one”.

Maybe the ‘poor guy’ had only forgotten his glasses, that’s why he looked so mesmerised. Nevertheless, I owe the hours of daydreaming that ensued to him; so thank you for the entertainment, hungry stranger (be it a book or chips that you were hungry for).
A whole scenario of airline wonderland started unfolding in my mind the moment I felt for him.

What if airlines – besides bad food, stuffed animals and blankets – offered you good books?
They could turn into flying libraries, helping keep yourself company, entertain kids, trigger conversations with strangers. Planes would become the perfect setting for one of the most delightful forms of dissociation: daydreaming through the pages of a good book.

Now, if you are a “what-if” kind of person, you know there is no way to stop the what-iffing, when you start with the right what-ifSo I ended up conceiving a marketing campaign for a flying library, featuring a smart bookshelf and a social app. 

Supporting books [modelling courtesy of Emilio Gatto]

Supporting books.

I know I am badly biased, but I’d rather see more people reading good literature than catalogues, on my next flights. With the International Book Day around the corner (coming up on April 23rd), I decided to virtually donate my concept for the good cause of promoting reading.
I’ll leave it here, it’s up for grabs. If it doesn’t sound too crazy to you, it might become an actual Corporate Social Responsibility project one day.


1. At the gate: the bookshelf. 

Imagine getting to your gate to find an inviting bookshelf with hours of entertainment waiting for you.

  • The books are sorted by expected reading time, so you can pick one depending on how long your flight is or how much of it you wish to dedicate to reading.
  • A separate, more colourful bookshelf, displays children books.
  • A counter shows the number of books passengers can borrow from the flying library for your flight (this would depend on how full the flight is).
  • Once you have found the book for you, you need to check it out by scanning it together with your boarding pass. This way, the loan is automatically registered with no need for paperwork.
  • Depending on the technology that would be implemented on it, the bookshelf might “recognise” that a book is off the shelf (or it is getting too far from it). If it’s gone for too long without being checked-out the electronically device embedded in the bookshelf will play a discreet reminder.
  • For practical reasons, the books would probably need to be in English.
2. On board: the book.

Once you borrow it, you can keep your book for the rest of your trip.
No need to explain how to use the device, I hope: buckle up, sit comfortably and jump in like Julie Andrews into a chalk drawing!

  • Borrowing the books is free. Anytime before landing, however, you will be able to buy the copy you are reading, if you like, the price depending on how much that copy has been travelling.
  • If you booked a round trip you can just rent the book and return it to the flying library on your way back.
  • When you rent or buy your book, you will get a voucher for a complimentary cup of coffee or tea. 
3. Beyond the printed page: social app and website.

Let’s go back to techie stuff.
Promoting the good old book does not imply casting out connected technology. Rather the opposite, in my opinion. The book is undoubtably one of the most groundbreaking technologies in the history of mankind, a game changer.
The global village is just a recent settlement in the Gutenberg Galaxy. I don’t see any reason books and electronic devices could not benefit from each other and generate new ways for humans to interact with artefacts and with each other …But this is probably material for another post …or a book!

  • The project would  a mobile app and a website.
  • Participants would be able to create their own profile, connect and post book reviews and comments. 
  • Of course, there would be the possibility to manage privacy settings, so to leave users in control of how much of their travels and reads they like to disclose.
  • Books would have a profile too, to show readers reviews and comments.
  • The book copies could have profiles as well, or rather a Passport to collect ‘stamps’ from their trips with their readers. The number of virtual stamps would help determine the price of the book.
  • An interactive world map would show the actual trips of the flying library and generate infographics about reading preferences per route, nationality, age and other variables.


Well, this was a semi-serious proposal, although I would love to see it come to life.
If you want to read about someone who is really serious about books, though, I recommend this article about a Japanese book conservationist I found on Colossal.


    • Angelica says

      What a lovely story, Nina! Now I want to buy a membership for the forest library of Kerala.

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