In 1993, Canadian futurist Frank Ogden ("Dr. Tomorrow") wrote a book entitled The Last Book You'll Ever Read.
This was not the first and certainly not the last prediction of the imminent demise of the printed page.
There is only one problem with these predictions, which is that they are consistently wrong.
Long-format is better as a printed book. It's portable and powered only by your brain. It is readable under a variety of lighting conditions. Maybe tablets and/or e-ink are going to reduce our use of printed pages, but if you look at almost anyone's office, the use of paper does not appear to be declining.
The only context in which e-books ever made sense to me was for university textbooks. These have the following characteristics:
- always changing
- dense information explanations for people new to the field
- often never used after the course or the degree is completed
In that specific context, it makes sense to dematerialize the books so that they can be carried around easily, and also, ideally, so that they can feature enhanced materials (demonstrations, live graphs, animated problem solving etc.)
Somehow digitization of books has gotten all jumbled together with e-books and the demise of books.
I think this is incorrect. Digitization is about SEARCH, not about reading. Quick, find me that one brilliant description of London in that book you read. What dates was Darwin on the Falkland Islands? All of this information is buried in books. All kinds of relationships and connections between books are similarly buried. I think the prospect of surfacing these is tremendously exciting. It will enable much better discovery of books, to be followed by delivery at the local library or bookstore. This is a huge opportunity.
Slashdot points me to an article in yesterday's Sunday Times: Could this be the final chapter in the life of the book.
David Worlock of Electronic Publishing Services said, “Ultimately it’s not up to Google or the publishers to decide how books will be read.
It’s the readers who will have the final say.”
No, it is the teachers who will have the final say. They will determine whether people will read for information, knowledge or, ultimately, wisdom. If they fail and their pupils read only for information, then we are in deep trouble. For the net doesn’t educate and the mind must be primed to deal with its informational deluge. On that priming depends the future of civilisation. How we handle the digitising of the libraries will determine who we are to become.
I don't buy this "more information with more full-text search will lead to less civilisation" argument. I'm pretty sure Gutenberg helped civilisation along quite a lot. Is there any evidence anywhere in history that more information was harmful? If having too much access to information is detrimental, maybe we should all go back to the days of an illiterate audience being harangued in Latin by the expert authorities of the day.
The event that the Times article mentions was Un-Bound: Advanced Book Publishing in a Digital World.
September 20, 2006 ECDL 2006 - Session 10 - Next Generation Million Book Digital Libraries
January 12, 2006 libraries as warehouses of dead paper: set your books electronically free