Time 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?