Monday, October 18, 2010

Will Physical Books be Gone in Five Years?

CNN is carrying an article today based on an interview with Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab, who predicts that physical books will be largely gone in five years.  I encourage you to watch the interview on CNN's video as well as reading the article.
A basic part of Negroponte's argument is that old-fashioned printed books cannot be produced in sufficient quantity to reach the populations of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  However, he also notes that, for him at least, the iPad experience of reading a newspaper is superior to reading the paper version.  As an author, I've made all of my books and monographs available free of charge via Google Books, and I actually prefer to read them electronically, mainly because of  (1) the ability to search the entire content of the book, (2) the hyperlinked table of contents, and (3) the hyperlinked index.  Actually, I rarely use the index anymore, given the search capability.  However, as one of those individuals not gifted with a photographic memory, I frequently find myself wondering exactly what I wrote or how I structured an argument in a book written decades ago.  Today, I can pick up my iPhone, launch Google and quickly search the full text of, for example, Television's Window on the World (my first book, based on my doctoral dissertation.)  Moreover, any of you who wonder what the world of television news was like back in the 1970s, before CNN and long before the Internet and Google News existed, can do the same thing!
I will chime in and basically agree with Negroponte's prediction, although I think he's using a bit of hyperbole to make the point.   I expect that some people will continue to print their own books or use "print on demand" services to get a paper copy.  However, most of us will prefer the power and convenience of light weight, high quality color readers with full internet connectivity.  The players in Korea's display industry should anticipate and lead this global trend.

1 comment:

  1. Hence my paper "Dematerialization and Deformalization of the EFL/ESL Textbook", to be presented at FGIT: MulGraB 2010 in December on Jejudo.

    Longer term, writing may become obsolete, as presaged by the lack of physical keyboard on the iPad. As computer-mediated communication replaces face-to-face communication as the norm, and interactive multimedia becomes a preferred means of discourse, natural (verbal) language itself may eventually be supplanted and be discarded.