Blog Hop: Reading a Hundred Years From Now

book blogger hopTime for another Book Blogger Hop question: How will we be reading in 100 years’ time? Will there be any printed books left? How about ereaders? What might they look like?

Such an interesting question!  I am sure much has been written on the subject by people far better informed than I, but here’s my particular theory on it…

I’ve never agreed with the doomsayers who think paper books will disappear in 5 or 10 or 15 years.  For one thing, I think that ignores the fact that there are billions of printed books in the world, and even if no one ever printed another one, all of the existing ones won’t vanish.  (The oldest book I personally own?  Printed in 1884.  Books last.)  As long as printed books exist, people will have an opinion on whether they prefer the experience of reading on a device or on paper, which means there will continue to be a market for paper books, because some people (me!) prefer them.  Ebooks will probably continue to rise, but I don’t think paper books will disappear.

In 100 years, paper books may be fading, because by that point even the oldest people will have been born after the invention of ebooks, and growing up with ereaders may change the preferences.  On the other hand–there’s also a lot of talk about paper books being better (for developmental reasons, for entertainment, for reading engagement) for children, so there may not be a generation that really doesn’t grow up without paper books.

Ebooks are still the new shiny thing right now, but I think eventually the two mediums (three if you separate hardback and paperback; four if you count audio) are going to coexist for the longterm.  The shift I expect will be towards print-on-demand.  Createspace can already print books fast enough that there’s no discernible lag on Amazon’s shipping time between pre-printed books and print-on-demand.

With a larger ebook market and, maybe more significantly, more and more books bought on the internet, it’s going to make less sense to print thousands of copies and wait for readers to buy them.  I expect printing individual copies to get even cheaper and faster, and it will make more sense for books to be sold and then printed, rather than printed and stored to sell.  (Which means maybe the bigger shift will be in how we buy books than in how we read them, but that’s a slightly different question!)

Printing may disappear as an option if the market for paper books really dwindles.  But I think it’s going to be a long time before that happens, especially when we already are at a point where the cost to buy the only paper copy printed of an obscure self-published novel is not significantly different than the cost of, say, Harry Potter.  As long as that stays true, the market can shrink a lot before it disappears, meaning I don’t expect paper books to entirely disappear either.

Your turn!  Do you read ebooks or paper now?  How do you think it will shift in 100 years?

17 thoughts on “Blog Hop: Reading a Hundred Years From Now

  1. Heck, I still mostly buy music on CD. Of course the first thing I do when I get a new CD is to copy it to my computer and transfer it to my phone and then put the CD on the shelf where it will hardly be touched again but… I’m a little bit materialistic that way. I like having “stuff.” I like seeing CDs on a shelf.

    My main problem with ebooks—or digital anything really—is that you don’t always completely own it. Many digital copies come with restrictions: how many devices you’re allowed to copy it to, what devices it’s compatible with, etc. Can you lend an ebook to a friend? Can you sell an ebook on the secondary market? Ha, imagine that… a used ebook market.

    In a hundred years, who’s to say what sort of ereaders we’ll have? Perhaps current ebook formats won’t even work on the future ereaders. Whereas I’m fairly certain that a physical book published today, if kept in hospitable conditions, will still work the same in a hundred years.

    1. ensign, I love your take on this 🙂 I’m thinking if they can invent an ereader that has a binding, paper pages I can turn and no electricity required, I might be “in” 😉

  2. Jemima Pett

    At the start of this summer I preferred paperbacks to read in the garden, but was happy to read from my laptop otherwise. Then I got my Paperwhite, and discovered it was even easier to read in the garden than a book – and I didn’t need to find my dark reading glasses! It does need charging fairly often, considering the claims, though. Answer? I still want both, since some books I want to have on a shelf for the touch and feel. But in my new scifi novel, ereaders are the norm; only old fogies search out strange things called books., But in 100 years? I don’t know 🙂

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    In 100 years I wonder if we’ll be so cavalier about the use of electricity. Paper books don’t need a power source!

    1. Jemima Pett

      They may not need a power source to read (other than artificial light), but paper mass-production is energy intensive and requires pulp from trees, bleach and a large requirement for water. Of course ereading devices have all sorts of costly, environmentally dubious and resource intensive materials inside them, but they can be used for many purposes. It’s a hard call.

  4. dianem57

    Guess I’m the odd one out of your commenters so far. I still read printed books, of course, but I got a Kindle last Christmas and have used it A LOT all year long. I love how portable it is for any size book. Even more, I like how I can download a new book I’m interested in and start reading it right away, without having to wait for it to be delivered after I order it on-line, or wait even longer to look for it in a brick and mortar bookstore. I find the experience of reading on an e-reader different than in a printed book, but it’s not a bad experience. I’m the type of reader who rarely holds on to books once I’ve finished them, so maybe that’s a difference with your other commenters. I’d buy paper, too, if I planned to keep everything I read. Now on an e-reader, the books are cheaper and I feel better about spending the money then giving the book away. I keep them on the e-reader, but can delete them if I want. They take so little space it doesn’t really matter.

    1. The instant gratification of ereaders does sound nice! I would be more likely to use an ereader if I didn’t have a good library, for the reason you mention. I don’t keep most of what I read either…but since I get it all from the library, it’s still easier to get paper than to buy ebooks!

  5. I’m all about paper and always will be. I see certain advantages to owning an ereader (in fact, Verizon gave me a free one for signing up for the $10 per month service. I didn’t pass it up because an author I know made a valid point of how to use a kindle as a research tool within book texts. If not, I had no intention of owning one. This happened weeks ago and I still haven’t touched it. I forget I even have it! lol I want tangible books with covers and pages to turn. I do think they will co-exist and I can’t see actual books completely disappearing 🙂

      1. LOL, Cheryl, there’s no question about that! I’m sure once I have time (I’m still working on set up and posts with the new blogs) and find a use, I’ll learn more about having a tablet, but it wasn’t something I intended buying. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get one that, with the service, is like a 25-month payment plan lol

  6. Lily

    Long live printed books! I’m with your opinion for the most part–I do think that ereaders and the like will continue evolving, but what they may turn into I know not.

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