The Future of Reading
By Brenda Cooper, 2001
How is the electronic revolution affecting reading? Will books soon be a thing of the past?
I doubt it.
Here’s what I do think:
- Many of us will want our fiction books in paper form for a long time. They work well curled up in a favorite chair in front of the fire, and they also travel well. No batteries.
- Even those of us who love our paper books (I probably have more than a thousand of them!) will find electronic books useful for some types of reading / places to read.
Electronic book sales are poised to increase as reading devices are getting clearer and less expensive.
- Electronic media is wonderful for non-fiction. We want our informational reading to be current and hyper linked. In my world, I already buy fewer nonfiction books — two year old information feels outdated.
- Fiction and poetry isn’t outdated. I don’t want my copies of Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” or Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” to change. I may want an electronic copy too, but there’s less drive to have it digitally.
- I don’t have statistics to prove it, but I suspect the internet is INCREASING literacy. Almost every electronic device I use requires reading.
- Many children may be reading fewer traditional paper books. But they’re immersed in multimedia, and literate with tools I can barely use.
In summary: electronic words are a good thing. They won’t replace words printed on paper soon, if ever. But they’ll be an additional way to get information, to read a story, and to sample physical books before we buy them.
After all, these are electronic words. They are concepts displayed with light available at what seems like light speed (if you have dsl or better!). They have no physical existence unless you choose to print them out.