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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The "end" of the printed book?

    I remember reading some predictions 20 years ago from some futurists.  The one that I remember is the one that predicted that in the future people would have phone numbers and not places.  We now know how accurate that prediction was.   The generation under 40 probably have never had their own land line telephone number.
    Recently I read the book "The Burning Page" that was written by the product manager for the development of the Kindle with Amazon.  By the time the Kindle was rolled out the digital revolution had dramatically altered the way newspapers and magazines were being read online but books were still being read in a printed form.  The development of the e-reader and the digital tablets have finally had the same impact on how books are now read.  As early as Christmas 2009 Amazon was selling more e-books than hard covers.  The author even speculates that the future historians will look at the period from the mid 15th Century to the end of the 20th Century as the "Gutenberg Period."
     This book explains some the the impacts of the e-readers and where the future goes with books.  Will publishers be diminished with authors self publishing books directly to readers? We have already seen the rapid decline of the large chain book stores.  What will libraries look like without shelves of books?  What will we do with our hardcover books?  Burn them?  Try to sell them? As someone who dreaded packing up books with every move the ability to store all those books on an e-reader just has more appeal.
    The first generation of e-books that we now have are just digital versions of the printed book.  The next generation of e-books will have interactive features that the printed book could never provide. The author of the "Burning Page" had a link at the end of each chapter to a Facebook page where readers could discuss the content of the chapter with the author and each other.  Authors could update books quickly with new information.  This would be especially helpful for textbooks.  Remember when encyclopedias sent out a year book with updates every year?  Links to videos and other publications could be embedded in the text.  No more need for footnotes.

     I have always thought that I have keep up with the changing times.  I have had a smart phone for years, I tweet, I blog, I have an e-reader.   But I recently was taken aback by something one of my children said.  She is looking for a house in Howard County and was looking at houses built in the 1950's and 1960's.  She was talking about how old the house designs were and mentioned that they even had soap dishes built into the tiles in the shower.  I asked her where she puts her soap and she told me that young people only use body wash.  Really?  I will feel old every time I now take a shower.


Patrick Godknecht said...

Interesting insights. This just emphasizes the need to start building our own websites, truly using social media, and studying its capacities and potentials. I am sure the printed book won't end, but the underlying publishing paradigm would change. It would be more spontaneous, for one, if it isn't already. Furthermore, the simultaneity of information ( i.e. like what the hyperlinks exemplify ) will further transform the way that books are conceived. We should all be online as soon as that happens in earnest.


duanestclair said...

I couldn't agree more that the online capabilities are just now being realized and utilized. In 10 or 20 years how we live our lives will be so different that it is hard to even image today.