The Fate of Books After the Age of Print

Thanks to Sean Re

Is the printed book on its way to extinction? Will the e-book win the day? Will writers be able to make a living? Will publishers? Will booksellers? Will there be any readers? Is there life after the Age of Print? The new order is fast upon us, the ground shifts beneath our feet, and as the old sage put it, all that is solid melts into air. What will the future bring?

The only thing we can know for certain, of course, is the past—and even the past is notoriously elusive and discloses its truths in fragments whose meanings provide fodder for endless speculation and debate. The present is a vexing blur, its many parts moving too swiftly to be described with consensual accuracy. As for its significance, or what it portends, only the future can render a credible verdict. The future is, famously, an undiscovered—and unknowable—country.

That has not stopped the avatars of the New Information Age. For these ubiquitous boosters, the future is radiant. For them, the means of communication provided by digital devices and ever-enhanced software will democratize publishing, empower those authors whose writings have been marginalized by or, worse, shut out of mainstream publishing, and unleash a new era of book commerce. E-books, they insist, will save an industry whose traditional methods of publishing have been challenged by the new technological forces now sweeping the globe. Robert Darnton, one of our more sober and learned historians of reading and the book, believes that the implications for the ecology of writing and reading, for publishing and bookselling—indeed, for literacy itself—are profound.

More at TruthDig

One Comment

The fate of writers aside, digital media, so far, seems to have a very limited shelf-life. Got any 5 1/4″ floppies still laying around from your old Commodore or Atari? How about IBM punch-cards? What good are they now? To say nothing of the inherent degradation of the things over time. I have a feeling at least a few printed books will still be around and cherished when computers and their spawn are nothing more than a glyphic memory on the cave wall. But maybe I’m old-fashioned. Or just old.