When electronic books rule, will physical books and bookshelves one day be consigned to museums? Written out of our furnishing requirements as interesting curios from past times, and gazed at wonderingly by precocious five-year olds, the same way that children and adolescents now peer at old telephones and record players? I laughed when I watched a video of two sixteen-year-old boys trying to work out how to use a dial phone, but actually, I just felt old.
Kindles are great. But will we all be using them, all the time, in ten years? Will there be any need for shelving for books, when my kindle offers several free dictionaries and probably a thesaurus and an encyclopaedia as part of the start-up incentive built in with every new purchase of an e-reader? Think of all that shelf space saved!
Audio books, too, are growing in popularity, partly, I believe, because our kids have grown up with i-pads and mobile phones so a vocal interface is second nature to the way they relate. Which is no bad thing: for millennia, humans have used story telling and songs to pass down knowledge. The last twist merely reinvents what comes most naturally to human-kind. So is the writing on the wall for writing?
Will house-builders have an even better excuse for building homes in miniature? (“Ye don’t need book cases no more, love, so we can just put yer king-size up against the wall here, like that”)
In the not-too-distant future, physical books may only be available in community co-operatives, run like libraries, with a café, a shop and a second-hand clothes shop alongside. Or we may order our own POD copies at vast expense in what will have become a niche market. Whatever the prophesies of the technophiles, and whatever the demands of eco living, almost everyone needs books in one form or another. And there may come a time when we are immensely grateful to unearth old back numbers that we now overlook, with their modest orange, green and blue covers, and their restrained delvings into human suffering. As has been suggested in many post-apocalyptic narratives, we may even need to tear out the pages to use for personal grooming or for fire-lighting; or, when the power runs out, we may actually start reading them again.
Thanks for listening.