"So, what is it you do there at Grogel?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM

My beloved grandmother loves to talk to others about her grandchildren and how proud she is of what each one of us has become. Although, I always worried -- actually, I had solid evidence -- that she didn't fully understand my job at Google as an eBooks Strategist.

Explaining Google to her has been a real challenge, as her daily interactions with technology are limited to the use of a phone (a landline, not even a mobile one), the washing machine and the TV. Worse, my mind used to go blank every time she asked me, "So, what is it you do there at Grogel?" I won't even get started on my efforts over the last three years trying to correct her pronunciation.

Enough was enough. I love my Nana and I wanted her to be part of what I do. I wanted to share with her not only my personal but also my professional life. Nana is a fervent reader; her shelves are filled with literary gems that have been passed down through three generations in the family. I began to think about how I could connect her interest in books with my work on Google eBooks. It would still be a challenge: as an 87-year-old, Nana would likely have trouble imagining the existence of a paper-less book.

But with this goal in mind, on my most recent visit to my family in Spain, I decided to give up trying to tell, and work on trying to show. I would help her experience firsthand the beauty of digital reading.

Nana does not speak a single word of English, so I took her online to Google Books and looked for one of the greatest contributions to Spanish literature: La Celestina. For those of you unfamiliar with this treasure, this 15th-century masterpiece marks a cultural turning point in the history of Spanish literature.

I downloaded the eBook in one click and opened it in the Web Reader on the browser. Throughout the few minutes it took to go through this simple process, Nana sat there quietly. When I finally turned to her to ask her to read a few words of the eBook, her face couldn't hide her amazement. But she read the whole first chapter out loud, the tone of her voice showing the excitement behind making this discovery. She was reading Calisto and Melibea's tragicomedy on a computer screen. She was seeing the year 1499 brought to the 21st century through the 'magic' of digital content.

Ever since that experience, instead of avoiding asking about the details of my job, Nana can't stop asking me questions about it. I think that after having her experience reading eBooks on the Web Reader, on my eReader device and on my smartphone, I am the one who is now talking proudly about my Nana to others.