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Paper books’ bleak future in E-era

After one or two generations, will books disappear and replaced by hi-tech E-reader?

Photo by Yong Wang

British people are book lovers. They read a lot at schools, in the trains, and on the benches in parks. WikiHow even gives instructions on how to read while walking.

Louis Brown, 91, has been identified as the most avid reader in Britain. She borrowed 25,000 books from libraries, according to a Telegraph report.

I met an old couple this afternoon, and they told me they also read a lot. Well, printed books.

When I asked them if they believe paper books would disappear because of high technologies, they said: “Yes, maybe after our generation and the next, paper books will disappear.”

E-reader

From Amazon’s Kindle, the best-selling e-reader, to the first pocket e-reader Readius, then to the extremely thin and bendable Skiff Reader, more and more companies are now entering this emerging E-reader industry.

Pix from e-reader manufactures' websites and edited by Yong

Technologizer gives details of some key e-reader brands including prices, configurations, user-experiences, etc.

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Barnes & Nobel Nook
  • iRexDR800SG
  • Plastic Logic Que
  • Sony Reader Daily/Pocket/Touch Edition
  • Spring Design Alex
  • Foxit Software eSlick

According to a PCworld report, e-reader sales doubled last year, and will continue to double in 2010.

Its huge capacity, portability, easy-bookmarking, searchability, and reasonable price nowadays are some of the reasons for their popularity.

E-era

E-reader is just part of the E-reading era we are entering into.

Google Library has been there for years, with its book volume increasing at bullet speed.

Bookseller.com did a survey in October 2009, and found that 4% of the British have read an e-book in the past month.

Many newspapers have their online version; some even stopped publishing print version like Christian Science Monitor.

Magazines are also being digitalized. This YouTube video illustrates a new generation of e-magazine platform co-developed by the Wonderfactory and Times Inc.


Courtesy of thewonderfactoryny: Sports Illustrated – Tablet Demo 1.5

Paper books

Except for the feeling of flipping pages, I can’t think of any other advantages enjoyed by paper books over e-reader.

However, the younger generations have been growing up with computers. They are used to reading on computer screens, and the page-flipping feeling might not appeal to them at all.

Paper books won’t disappear, but they will most probably end up in libraries only as reference, and in the longer future, rest in museums like the lambskin or parchment scripts we “appreciate” now.

The bleak winter in newspapers industry won’t be far away for paper books.

As defenders of the printed faith, you may disagree with my prediction, but looking into 50 years time, are you sure you’ll still be confident that paper books won’t give way to e-books?

  1. Eluned Owen
    September 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I understand/realise we’re moving into a new age regarding how we access and use “books” – virtual and actual. Small example:on the Tube(seats opposite & adjoining)7/12 people were accessing virtual info (lap-tops;phones;ipods) 2/12 were staring into space; 3/12 were reading actual print. Granted, the “virtual accessors” might’ve been a)working b)emailing/surfing net c)listening to music i.e. not actually “reading books”.
    I wonder what niche books will occupy in 5, 10,50 years time?
    What of books from previous centuries? Will they be discarded & pulped (because content digitised)? Will they become the equivalent of the “piano in every living room” (&sheet-music to match) of the 19C & early 20C?
    Will there survive an enduring affection for volumes you can weigh in your hands?
    Or will that all go? Or will (at least some of them) become beloved and enduring artefacts of a different age?

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