Stein imagines, for example, that future forms of books might be developed not by conventional publishers but by the gaming industry. He also envisions that the distinction between writer and reader will be blurred by a social reading experience in which authors and consumers can digitally interact with each other to discuss any passage, sentence or line. Indeed, his latest project, Social Book, allows members to insert comments directly into digital book texts and is already used by teachers at several high schools and universities to stimulate discussions. “For my grandchildren, the idea that reading is something you do by yourself will seem arcane,” he says. “Why would you want to read by yourself if you can have access to the ideas of others you know and trust, or to the insights of people from all over the world?”
Like woodblock printing, hand-processed film and folk weaving, printed pages may assume an artisanal or aesthetic value
Books themselves, however, likely won’t disappear entirely, at least not anytime soon. Like woodblock printing, hand-processed film and folk weaving, printed pages may assume an artisanal or aesthetic value. Books meant not to be read but to be looked at – art catalogues or coffee table collections – will likely remain in print form for longer as well. “Print will exist, but it will be in a different realm and will appeal to a very limited audience, like poetry does today,” Stein says. “However, the locus of intellectual discourse is going to move away from print.”
“I think printed books just for plain old reading will, in 10 years from now, be unusual,” Shatzkin adds. “Not so unusual that a kid will say, ‘Mommy, what’s that?’ but unusual enough that on the train you’ll see one or two people reading something printed, while everyone else is reading off of a device.”
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I read that article. Mostly I agree.
Things that such discussions often omit include the reason my wife wanted a Kindle. All of the tiny print in the average paperback book gradually became too small for her to read. As a result, she almost stopped reading books altogether. When she got her Kindle, it was like getting a gift of sight. Because she could adjust the size of the font.
Ditto for me and my motorcycling magazines.
“Print” will never go away. But I keep saying, its role will be reduced and changed. Think about it: for 500 years the literati have been brainwashed into thinking print is good and everything else is inferior. But what is print?
The most complete communication between humans is face-to-face talking. For print, you have to memorize a secret code – pictures or letters – and then put your thoughts into this code on paper. This is the gift of portability and permanence. It was the best way to move thoughts through space and time. Until the telephone.
In the future, we will be able to very conveniently do this without having to learn that coding. We can now send anything instantly anywhere. Or store it. This is what drives the literati nuts. They’re like ancient priests who feel threatened by the masses being able to do what only the select few could do. Thus the studies proving that gadgets cause brain damage.
Of course, for most people, “print” means sitting in a room by yourself with no one to disturb you while you have this mystical experience with fiction. For that experience, clay tablets would do. And they do!
Many people thought television would supersede radio. And we know how they would rhapsodize about the imaginative experience of radio. But radio did not disappear. Its role changed. Same will happen to print.
It’s odd that some people feel threatened by those who interact over gadgets. As if the total isolation of the print experience is better than the interactive experience of a smartphone.
We should really expect to see sincere studies that demonstrate how print makes people isolated and antisocial (or asocial, at least). And how forcing our experiences into abecedarian linearity is unnatural and harmful to our thoughts…and our brains!
But print is the old guard and will never be taken to task as it should be. It’s the New Guy who gets picked apart.
It’s all Marshall McLuhan and hot media and cool media and all that.