Friday, August 14, 2015

What will books be like in 100 years?

Publishing 100 years ago was dime novel territory, that revolutionary break-through of cheap fiction that "ruined" books. It was pulp magazines; it was radios and radio plays "destroying" books; it was the breakthrough of mass-printing of books when everyone could afford them. And if you asked the intellectual elite of the time, it was probably "The End" of reading and the publishing industry as a whole.

Obviously, publishing survived. It revolutionized, and it spread. And it's doing that again, and as before, the industry is changing so rapidly that few people know where it's going.

So what will books be like in 100 years?

Will they all be multi-media, full-immersive texts with virtual reality cut scenes? Will you occasionally stop reading to video chat with one of your friends on your book? Maybe you'll highlight your favorite sentence, and a custom menu will pop up, animating the scene just for you. You might even be able to customize the characters to look like you imagine them. And the author will have already selected the perfect soundtrack for every scene, ready and waiting for you.
e-Reading toy 2099: the USB book, which magically
fills a book of blank pages with a cover and words, for the
full "book" experience. Only $999.99!

I wouldn't be surprised if those were "toys" that become available. But you know what? I would be surprised if the next generation of books still includes the same number of print-and-ink books. Or at least 50-50. Because there's still something nice about holding a book.

But I do see books being printed on cheaper but more durable paper, books that you could drop in the tub and never worry about getting ruined. Not all books, but it would be a popular feature.

And I can see e-books being more share-able than ever. People sharing, texting, talking about their books live on their phones and Kindles and next-gen e-reader-tablets. The rise of the live-reading hashtag, where perfect strangers will post what they're reading and, across the world, other readers of the same thing will join in and read, together, quietly, online over video feed, sharing each others' reactions and joys and favorite lines, and talking about what they read. Instant book club.

And people who do buy print books, many of those books I can see being impressively bound, looking like showpieces. Because e-books will probably be cheaper, and they definitely take up more space, and if people continue downsizing our homes (due to population density or just a preference to tiny homes), anything that takes up space had better be a quality worth devoting space to. People will buy their favorites in ink and sturdy paper, hardbound beauties designed to last for centuries, and keep those treasures on special shelves.

What do you think books will be like in 100 years?

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