“Pick a nice spot for your library” – the airport departure lounge

By | March 6, 2012

Day 2 of our photo blog

The next instalment in our Airports photo week takes us into the advertising world…

Sony Reader
“Pick a nice spot for your library” (© 2006 Sony Electronics Inc.)

‘In 2006 Sony ran an ad for the Reader (an early e-reading device, to be followed by the more successful Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, among others) that uses an airport departure lounge as a setting in which to market the device. The fine print of the ad boasts that the Reader can hold “about 80 electronic books” and is “as easy to carry as a slim paperback”—clearly, we are well-entrenched in the milieu of airport reading.

The ad depicts an empty airport departure lounge, complete with a white, unmarked Boeing 747–400 in the background, framed by floor-to-ceiling windows. Behind the aircraft lies a partly cloudy sky—neither stormy nor crystal clear. Beside a row of standard airport seating, a blue sign is posted on a contextually incongruous construction-zone T-bar post: it shows a nondescript icon of a person reading a book. Note how the T-bar punctures the departure lounge floor: this suggests that the ground of the airport is earthy, almost outside. This environmental intrusion rubs against the idea in the fine print that the airport could be reconceived as a “library.” What is perhaps most striking about this image is the profound emptiness of the airport. This presents a curious paradox: if one needed to resort to the Sony Reader’s full book capacity in an airport, it would likely be due to a long delay, which would also mean a jam-packed departure lounge. Yet the Sony departure lounge has been imagined as a silent space, an ideal site for solitary reading—as the fine print reads, “Pick a nice spot for your library.”

This departure lounge is doubly warped, first as an ironically empty space, and second as a destination for (electronic) book reading. The layers of textuality are piled high in this ad for the Sony Reader. We are asked to interpret the generic airport space; to translate the eerie emptiness into a library-like ambience; and then to rethink the excruciating time of waiting as a luxurious chance to read . We are interpellated to fly —then to wait —then to read. And this prompt toward book reading arrives in the form of a magazine ad: the imaginary library of books functions as a certain wish image for passing time, when in fact, as noted in the passage from Underworld, airport waiting is perhaps better suited to time for magazines.

The idea of the book is central to the textual life of airports, but it is a vexed matter, as we noted in the original definition of airport reading. As an object of airport reading, the book trembles on an interesting threshold between deep meaning and utter disposability.’

– The above is an extract from our book, The Textual Life of Airports by Christopher Schaberg – now available to buy. You can exclusively read the introduction and first chapter of the book here.

If you liked this, then check out yesterdays photo from the book!

Jenny Tighe

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