Q #183: Will electronic reading devices eliminate the need for bound books?
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
In my opinion, no. Amazon’s Kindle has received a great deal of favorable attention and its sales have thus far exceeded Jeff Bezos’ high hopes and great expectations. Meanwhile, Sony and others are scrambling to become major players. That said, I think there will always be a need for bound volumes even as people will access content in other ways, notably online and via reading devices such as Kindle.
There seem to be parallels between this situation and the popularity of television that, after World War Two, many assumed would replace – or at least endanger the future of — movies and radio. Well, that never happened. True, because of what is now available online, most daily newspapers and many magazines are losing money because of reduced appeal, circulation, and advertising revenue. For now, bound volumes are indispensable…especially in Third World countries, but that is changing.
Lacking a crystal ball (mine imploded decades ago), I offer no predictions but will suggest a few probabilities:
1. There will always be bound volumes to serve some needs (e.g. academic, legal, and religious) but fewer published and read each year.
2. Portable reading devices will become as ubiquitous as radios. In fact, we will soon have relatively inexpensive devices that combine basic features of the bound volume, radio, television, video and audio recorder, and telephone. In time, most face-to-face contact will combine image and voice and both will be HD.
3. Schools and colleges will offer most programs off-site and online. There will be supervised instruction but learning will be essentially self-directed. A high percentage of adults will be involved in lifelong learning programs of one kind or another. Employers will supplement them with job-specific or skill-specific training programs.
4. School, college, and public libraries will become multi-dimensional learning centers. Many churches will also have them. There will be a mini-learning center in each residence, with direct and instantaneous access to almost unlimited resources throughout the world.
Whatever does (and does not occur) in years to come, the human race will continue to rely on images and sounds. Only their forms and access to them will change.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob
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