A few books I bought, maybe for reading

The end of el heapo

And what it all means for the future of literature

JJ Merelo
4 min readNov 2, 2013


Once upon a time, el heapo was an atomic thing, el heapo being a quite literal translation of the Spanish terms the pila, meaning a stack of books, specially sci-fi that are prominently and visibly stashed for future reading.

I have actually read all those on the picture, but there was a moment in time where el heapo was so big and distributed I would need a heap of clones for reading. That was way before the era of e-books. Now el heapo is, for all purposes, infinite. It’s so incredibly easy to get one book that, competing with all books taking physical shelf space, you have many others that you might want to read, and maybe physically read, without making your el heapo get any smaller.

Fortunately, I got rid of any hint of guilt associated with having any unread book a long time ago. I kind of enjoy having it there, waiting for the moment I am in the mood for reading it.

Because buying or, er, acquiring has become entirely disassociated from the act of reading. You no longer buy for reading, you buy it for having (in fact, that’s not so different from the reason you added stuff to your personal heap before). And since reading is related to writing, because you read for leisure or for evocation or to reach a certain level of joy, buying is no longer related to the writing in the book either.

And that means a lot for the future of literature. Or, if you want, the written word.

The McBook. I mean the actual book.

A McMansion was built for selling, not so much for actual living-in. A McBook will be written for selling, not so much for actual reading. That means luxurious cover, an incredible blurb, featuring also a video trailer (which, in principle, would be as appealing as a novelette for selling a movie, but seems to be catching on), and something between the covers that actually corresponds to what is said in the blurb. At least roughly.

Just put yourself in the position: that cover in silver and black, a video trailer which is enticing without being revealing, a blurb with all the buzzwords of the age… you want it! You want it now! It goes to el heapo, to come off it… maybe.

Now, about that future you were talking about

You are absolutely right, my dear reader. That’s already happening now. The industry has caught up to that trend, and is producing McBooks as so many dead cow patties; people are also writing them, undoubtedly.

But I would be hard pressed to say that the future of the literature is in the industry. I have already said it’s in open source, but why it is so depends on the reasons you have to pull something out of the heapo. You do so because it’s talking to you, and to you personally. You find something there, it gives you goosebumps remembering the last book you read from the same author, you connect to the book at an emotional level.

And one of the ways of achieving that is, actually, writing books that are personal. Mass customization has yet to arrive to the literary world. There’s a single book written for everybody. Take it or leave it. Don’t like the ending, tough luck, you’ve already been there and wasted your time. What if you could have a writer, through customization engines, write something for you, that appeals to you in that particular moment of the day, of your life? That would be bliss. That would make books fly off your heapo the moment they come in.

That can be achieved, mainly and maybe only, via open source tools that are able to analyze tastes and automatically change or adapt a text to you via the click of a mouse and a bit of old-fashioned copy-editing. Which will be, eventually, what you pay for, not the original text (which might be in the public domain or open-sourced by the same author) or the rest of the things you usually pay: editing, translating and so on.

Will that be the end of el heapo?

Well, for people who haven’t started it yet, probably. For those, like me, whose own heapo is alive and kicking, I don’t see anything short of a bookish version of American Pickers to deal with it. It will be the end of literature as we know it, on the other hand. Maybe.



JJ Merelo

I’m just realizing I might smile too much, and that shows in the pictures. Day job: U. of Granada prof. On the side: blogger @jjmerelo and writer @lujoyglamour