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Will Books Become Obsolete?

Sharon has a passion for reading non-fiction books and writing about what she learns from her research and her experiences.

Books Obsolete?

The thought of books becoming obsolete seems rather far fetched, but is it?

I have loved books all my life. Since I was a small child I always had a book in my hand. I still have many books in my home and I much prefer to to have a bound book in my hands rather than reading a digital version. But does the upcoming generation feel the same way?

The popularity of books appears to be waning with the younger generations who do not know life before technology. This is a subject worth exploring.

Will Books Disappear?

Many still feel the attraction to the printed book. Personallly, I love libraries and I could spend days in a bookstore. I feel good in those places. It makes me feel sad that bookstores and libraries may not exist in the future. I don't want to see this occur in my lifetime, and I hope it will never happen.

Technology persists and many forms of print media are falling out of favor. But will the book disappear?

Let's look at the future of our beloved book.

The E Reader

Electronic Books

On the road to the disappearance of books; we have the E-Reader. This device has changed things somewhat. I have a friend who adores her Kindle but I am not convinced. My reluctance? I don't like reading on screens unless I have no choice.

Books have not disappeared so I still have that choice. I love the feel, look and even the smell of a new book. Curling up with your E-reader isn't as enticing to me.

These devices do have one huge advantage. Travel. For those of us who love to catch up on our reading on vacation, you can't beat bringing along your E-Reader. For voracious readers, lugging books around is difficult. E-Readers can carry hundreds of titles. I can appreciate having one just for this purpose.

Another advantage is the environmental impact. You can't deny that many trees will be saved by the use of technology.

Another advantage and an interesting statistic I found was that 59 percent of the purchases of reading devices are by people over the age of 55! This is due to the fact you can increase print size on an E-reader. The younger generation is not purchasing these devices. Remember E-readers are book readers. Will the printed book become obsolete during the lifetime of the "digital native"?

Older adults like E-readers

Older adults like E-readers

The Digital Native

Will Digital Natives read traditional books?

Will Digital Natives read traditional books?

Growing Up With Books And Technology

I have learned some new terms! I first heard the phrase "digital native" at a conference I attended. It could become the moniker they give the generation that comes after the millennials. But my research reveals that it refers to anyone born after 1980.

Being born after that year means you have grown up with the internet and you will not remember the way life was before it. Older people, on the other hand are considered "digital immigrants". They had to "immigrate" to this new digital land and learn how to use it.

I marvel at my how my children (all born after 1980) embrace new forms of technology. Have you ever seen them look at the manual? Never. They pick up the new gadget and they use it immediately. They just know how. Their brains are wired differently I suppose. My children had computers in their kindergarten classroom so it is no wonder.

Statistics on the "digital natives" show that they do most of their reading on the web. Only seven minutes per day is spent reading from books!

I am unsure of this generation and those statistics. I have twin daughters born in 1995. One rarely touches a book but the other is a reader. She buys and swaps books with her friends. She checks books out of the library and she buys books at book stores; never considering a kindle or similar device.

I don't believe this generation will see the demise of books. I still see the interest of my daughter and her friends born in the '90s. I think it is the generation born later that we may have to worry about. Or do we? Will there always be bookworms? Is it a human trait that will endure?

Digital Library

Digital Library

The Bookless Public Library Is Here

A "bookless" library was designed and launched in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 2013. Will it take off? Will it be popular? This is the ultimate question and something to watch as it could indicate the beginning of the end for paper books.

Update -- Many years later this library is still going strong! However, paper books are still here as well. Check out the links below to see what this "bookless" library has to offer.

First Bookless Library

The Future Of Print Media

Will reference books be first to go?

Will reference books be first to go?

Reference Books And Newspapers

The Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary has announced that it will no longer have a printed edition. I suppose this should be an alarming turn, but I still don't believe so. The dictionary online is what I use. It is quick and convenient. If the print media is providing factual information, or reporting current events, they will eventually fall to the digital format as generations pass.

The Newspaper

Most major newspapers have a digital version. With the web we get our news instantaneously, as it happens, updating as we go along. Twitter has the scoop long before the news even hits the web. I was told about the death of Michael Jackson by my daughter who found out via Twitter. I didn't believe her especially when she told me the source. I have come to find that the "twitterverse" is quite reliable. My daughters often report news items to me and it usually comes from their twitter feeds.

I am not sure how long newspapers will hold on. I know I used to love to read the paper. I don't anymore. I grew up with it being delivered daily to my house. My parents still have the newspaper delivered daily, but they don't have access to the web. They didn't digitally migrate! If there is some news event I want to get an update on I usually "Google it".]

The Difference With Books

But books are different. They are an art form filled with ideas and creativity. Hardcovers may not survive, as they are expensive and it is much less expensive to download books on your E-Reader or wait until the paperback comes out. I can't remember the last time I read or purchased a hardcover book. I remember getting one as a gift for Christmas. It was a new release from an favorite author and given to me by my mother.... in 1982.

But wait, remember that daughter of mine who is a reader? She has hardcovers. Yes, the most popular books like "The Hunger Games" are being passed around her friends. Interesting, but still, most books don't reach that level of popularity with a movie deal and all.

So we may see many types of print media disappear but will books that are read for pleasure and ideas be among them?

The End of Newspapers?

Will Books Become Obsolete? Credibility

The Written Word

The Written Word

Printed Media Has Permanency

Print is permanent. It cannot be easily changed. That passage you found and quoted on the web could be gone tomorrow, not so with print.

Books go to publishers and are scrutinized and put through a process. A lot of time is spend in editing, printing and promotion. You have to have something interesting to say and you must be creative. Your writing is being judged before it is released to the world. Not so in the digital form. Anyone can now write an ebook build a website and sell the information. There are no referees.

Digital media can also be changed and updated quite easily. Didn't have the facts straight - no problem, push button edit. This is not so with the printed word, you must ensure what you are producing is accurate before it finds its way into the hands the consumer. Digital media does not require this certainty of accuracy. Speed is the the driver. After all time is money and it can always be updated later, right?

So, having a book in print says something about the author. It gives the author more credibility as it speaks to their commitment on the topic. Again, this may change over time but perhaps the printed word will become the domain of the creative elite? Definitely food for thought.

Books Are Art

Books Are Art

The Art Of Books

Books as Art. Books are much more aesthetically pleasing than the E-readers they are uploaded on. No one can argue the beauty of a book. The feel of it in your hand, the smell, the stylish cover, your favourite bookmark. All aesthetic pleasures. We are still human no matter how far we take our technology. We still appreciate design. Books are art. They hold our creativity in a pleasing format.

Remember candles were once the only means of lighting at night. We have had electricity now for centuries, yet the candle persists because it is beautiful, romantic, relaxing and a business worth millions! This is just one example but there are many. Technologies will become obsolete because we make something better and faster. Remember the eight track tape? Books have artistic value while eight tracks are clunky and ugly.

I was in a record store the other day and I saw a vinyl record by Adele. Adele? Hey, she was born after 1980! So the vinyl record is perhaps an art form now. A collectible. The jacket had a large photo of her face in black and white. Beautiful.

Handwriting is another art form. My children can barely write in cursive script but are adept at the keyboard. But handwriting is beautiful and will endure as a craft.

Books will also endure in my opinion. There is still a large segment of the population who love books in the printed format. I am one of those people and my young daughter is one too. Are you?

Will Books Disappear?

Yes, It's InevitableNo, There Will Always Be a Demand for Books

Sadly, I think it's very possible that, eventually, there won't be many printed books left. I think that libraries might last a long time, but more and more bookstores are already closing. - Breanne Ginsburg

No, there will always be the allure of a book that won't run out of batteries. - ThreeQuarters2Day

I hate to admit but I have to agree because trees aren't like grass. It isn't everywhere. I love books to be honest, but technology is kind of ruining the use for it. The feeling of flipping a page is forever in my taste. - anonymous

No, paper for the win! - anonymous

Unfortunately... - NoYouAreNot

No, I don't think so as people (including myself) like them too much - NonCopyBook

In the Middle Ages, monks created beautiful, hand-lettered manuscripts. The printing press made producing manuscripts by hand obsolete. In the same way, digital publishing will make the mass production of books obsolete. There may always be a market for people who want to own books as "antiques." - anonymous

No, I think people love the least I hope not... - Stargrrl

In a few years, everything will be electronic. - Jack2205

I hope they'll always be around. - favored

Not soon, but in another few generations, probably. - anonymous

No, there will always be the allure of a book that won't run out of batteries. - ThreeQuarters2Day

I think given time and new generations that books in the old format of paper and bindings will be found in museums rather than in houses and schools. Technology will eventually take over. We see it now with online purchasing rather than in-store. Times, they are a-changing. - seeker2011 Im

Maybe WW3 will make the world return to the stone age again. There will be always a place for paper books in the future. Are you forgetting third world countries ? - anonymous

I think so, but I don't think it will happen anytime soon. As you mentioned, the fact that Oxford dictionary is not publishing its printed version anymore is an important clue. - adragast24

I don't think printed books will die. I have a kindle that I purchased while deployed in the military and I must admit that it was incredible for providing me tons of books and the ability to get more instantly. But, I love to go to bookstores and browse for that perfect book which simply is much less pleasant than surfing Amazon. I dread the day my beloved paperbacks become obsolete, but I truly believe they will not. - A Sailor

Yes and hope to see it happen in the next 5 years. - HorseAndPony LM

No, I think there will always be actual books out there. - Loretta L

I think there will always be a select few who are collectors but for the most part I do think books will become obsolete. I don't think we will see it in the next 30 years but we are definitely working toward it. - PromptWriter

Maybe at some point, but I think it is a long way off yet. - jolou

The world is forever moving forward and it's all about being fast and convenient. - rallo-smith

There'll always be books in the printed form. I hope they don't become a luxury object but I fear they will. - Paul Ward

Probably, but I hope they will always be available. Between the art of them, and the fact that the librarians will be put out of work! - Zodiacimmortal

I can see the "pulp fiction" going digital — mysteries, romance novels, etc. But I would hope that literary works of art will always have a place in society. - anonymous

In the present use, yes. They will be kept as art objects. - Gypzeerose

It is probably inevitable in the distant future but there will always be books because the feel and smell of a book are different to a sterile-feeling Kindle or e-reader. It's just not the same. Even if books do become rarer, they will still be collectors' items. - victoriahaneveer

Eventually, yes. - YogaAngel

There will always be a need for printed books. - GeekGirl1

I can see cds/dvds dissappearing, but not books. - anonymous

No. People will realize that there is a need for both digital, audio and print version of books. Perhaps we need to look at ways in which to make print more popular alongside digital. Artwork, the 'feel' of a book — these are things that are not easily replicated in digital. I am going in the direction of reading digital and then, if i love the book, buying a nice copy of it to treasure - LittleMy LM

No way. The feeling of sitting down with a new book to read can't be matched with an electronic device. - gold3

I agree that they are an art form and art will continue to be made as long as people continue to be creative. Besides, there's something pleasing and relaxing about the look, feel and smell of books. - Kae Yo

Vinyl records now sell more than cds - there will always be a market for something people think connects them to art. - Mark Shirbroun

No, while reference type books might become obsolete, I think other types will continue to flourish. - ccmushroom

They said that TV would kill off attendance at football grounds (that's soccer to some.) Have you seen how big Old Trafford is? And it's nearly full most games. - JohnTannahill

I used to think that they would, but I am of the opinion that quality books will still be published in paper form. - Mickie Gee

I think books will stick around. Technology can only give us so much, but there is nothing like a printed book in your hands! - pheonix76

Some types of books can only be appreciated in print. We have a huge library of art books in our way can looking at a Raphael or Da Vinci painting on a tiny digital monitor at all compares to a beautiful color reproduction in a lavish art book. - sockii

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: If books have become obsolete, does the Internet provide all information needs?

Answer: Perhaps, however internet outages could pose a problem.

Question: If books become obsolete, what about the librarians or the newspapers and magazines becoming obsolete as well?

Answer: There will always be a need for information professionals even in a digital library as only the physical book is gone but the information is not. Librarians guide people in their searches and ensure libraries have access to information in an organized format. Newspapers and magazines currently have digital editions.

© 2012 Sharon Bellissimo

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