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When do you think paper books will become obsolete?

books technology obsolescence

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11 replies to this topic

#1
Maximum7

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I was just thinking about the future of books, when Del Rey announced the first audio-only Star Wars book. Meaning their is no physical copy that you can physically read. I spoke to the editor and he said they are trying something new. I think this "new" idea is a sign that physical books will become scarcer and scarcer. Audio books will soon take over as well as digital reading devices. Soon books will be eradicated all together. Here's my timeline for the bookcopolypse.

 

c. 2029- The last Barnes and Nobles stores will close. Books are only sold in mom and pop book stores and are regarded as a novelty. Books can still be ordered on Amazon but  many will be audio only.

 

c.2035- Old bookstores will close entirely as their rent will be too high. Books will only exist in antique shops and in churches. All publications will be digital and the only books still printed are religious texts

 

c2050- Books are no longer written. The only writing are scientific papers that are published online.

 

2100????- Nothing is expressed in written words anymore. Brain are connected to the internet and users can share "mind files". Quantum packets of information equivalent to a textbook, newspaper article or recreational fiction narrative. These packets are "read" by the brain instantaneously.

 

What do you think? Thoughts?



#2
Jakob

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Probably never. Not everyone likes reading off a screen.


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#3
Alislaws

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I think we will eventually phase physical books out, but definitely not in favour of audiobooks. 

 

Audiobooks are an all round worse format than normal books or digital ones. It takes several times longer to read/listen to a book out loud than it does to read it normally. 

 

I'd expect B&N are doing this because Audiobooks are much more expensive than physical or digital books. So if they make Audiobooks the only way to purchase it, they'll make more money.

 

Physical bookstores will close eventually though, now we all have phones (soon to have folding screens maybe?) younger generations will be more and more comfortable reading on their phone screen. 

 

I'm not sure how crazy the future will get but human visual processing is tough to beat, so I'd say text will have a place, even if its just to transfer info where the connection is not secure/trusted enough to transfer the info directly to your brain.

 

EDIT: ebooks->Audiobooks (ebooks are usually cheaper than paper books)



#4
wjfox

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#5
PhoenixRu

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Maybe it's just me, but paper books are instinctively perceived as something more important, durable and valuable compared to digital ones. You can download, try, and then delete literally hundreds of digital books, but only the best of them will end up on your bookshelves...


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#6
Erowind

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Never, even if we mind upload many including myself will still read paper books in virtual space. Even if we can upload knowledge to our brains like in the matrix the tradition is too strong. Reading a good book is more detailed, and experiential than any other current form of media. They genuinely take us to other worlds.
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#7
Alislaws

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Never, even if we mind upload many including myself will still read paper books in virtual space. Even if we can upload knowledge to our brains like in the matrix the tradition is too strong. Reading a good book is more detailed, and experiential than any other current form of media. They genuinely take us to other worlds.

I love books, and as PhoenixRu said the books I buy on paper are ones I value more. I don't think most people who like to read and who have grown up with paper books will ever switch 100% to digital, or away from books as a format.

 

However the great advantage of books as a format is that they're limited only by imagination. In a theoretical future where we have Fully Immersive Virtual Reality that too would be limited only by imagination.

 

While i'd probably still enjoy reading as a sort of relaxing way to enjoy an story (probably reading on a beach on my FIVR private Caribbean island), a young person may have a hard time understanding why us old folks* would want to read about a story instead of just living it like a normal person. 

 

Imagine someday all educational text books are replaced by near instant brain downloads, and communication between people is all just mind to mind at the speed of thought. This could be either directly like a conversation or just absorbing someone's thoughts on a topic they have prepared, which could replace blogs, social media posts and even newspapers. People born into that world will be very unprepared to sit down and read through hundreds of pages of text and will struggle to imagine why we would want to, given the other options we'd have available.

 

So I think its likely that over generations books and the written word will grow into a more and more niche interest.

 

*I'm assuming we're all still around, this is a good theoretical future! Not one where global warming breaks civilization or where we get wiped out by a stray solar flare. 


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#8
funkervogt

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Paper books might never become obsolete. They're cheap ways to store information, don't need electricity to work, and can stay intact for hundreds of years if not abused and kept in the right conditions (e.g. - a dark room at a constant 68-72° F, with 40-50% relative humidity). 

https://www.artic.ed...urces-for-books

 

As the books finally start wearing out, you can cheaply make new copies of them without losing any information and then reset the clock for several hundred more years. 

 

On the other hand, let me say that I think that some of the advantages of paper books will wane once books with paper-like "e-ink" pages are introduced. Everyone agrees that paper-thin display screens are coming, so when they do, why not use them to make books? The front and back covers and spine would contain a processor and battery, and between them would be several hundred pages of paper-like displays. You could download a library of thousands of different book titles, and, at the tap of a button, have your one e-book reconfigure all of its pages to be whatever book you wanted to read at that moment. I predict this device will be available for less than $1,000 during the 2030s, and should get very cheap in the 2040s. I'm unsure if it would make paper books obsolete, but it would sway a lot of people who still cling to books because they like the physical feel of them and don't like getting eye strain from glowing screens. 

 

Paper books might truly become obsolete if intelligent machines replace humans. They'll have instant mental access to nearly all information through the internet, and will have individual, internal memory banks with the equivalent knowledge of several million books. (All of this stuff could be made EMP proof as well, so paper books lose that advantage as a storage medium.) For advanced beings like that, it would be a waste of time to even grab a book lying on the table, open it, and flip through the pages to do speed reading because the same book could be downloaded and read in digital format even faster. 


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#9
HeadlessCloneOfAgnew

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Becoming obsolete is a separate notion to becoming non-existent. Books are already largely obsolete from an academic stand-point, as online databases are a much more effective way of both publishing and accessing peer-reviewed literature. They also have the subsequent effect of being much easier to use as secondary sources for people like journalists publishing short, succinct articles to social media platforms or websites such as this one. Even paper textbooks for universities are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as the benefits of a downloadable textbook that can be saved to the cloud and 'shared' among students (which while unethical is clearly the more economically efficient choice for poor undergraduates) is highly preferable to an entire class paying hundreds of dollars each for the same material.

 

Books used for leisure will take longer to be considered truly obsolete to other sources, but I can see this happening with only a few more technological evolutions. Take the new Galaxy Fold for instance. While obviously still imperfect and still reliant on a physical 'screen' to operate, it is the next evolution in the merging of applicability and practicality in handheld devices. Currently, Kindle's seem to be the most ubiquitous form of e-book, but its only function is to store books. To me, this is reminiscent of mp3 players that could, for the first time, digitally store and playback music, before the iphone came along and did the exact same thing but with a far greater variety of functionality. The difference here is size: Nobody likes reading books on phones because the screen is too small, and tablets are still far more expensive than kindles. Once technology like the Galaxy Fold begins to mature, or adjustable holographic screen projections replace physical devices altogether, I can't see it taking long before people are able to incorporate a digital library of books into their single handheld device with a large enough screen size to read comfortably. 

 

At the same time, most other applications for paper are all being made obsolete at the same pace. I work in a pub and see a lot of paper still being used to print gambling vouchers from large bulky machines that are easily 10-20 years old. However, these tickets are literally printed, then brought to another machine once a bet has finished and then scanned to be redeemed for cash. At the same time, betting apps that do the exact same job without the annoying middle-man and increased functionality/speed are exploding into use. I find it hard to believe that any gambling agencies are spending millions of dollars looking to introduce the new generation of ticket printers across the country, and this is just one example of a thousand in which the daily use of paper is quickly being made redundant by the sweeping employment of technology. With paper demand quickly declining, so too will supply which will drive up the cost of mass-printing and force major publishers into solvency. However, I think the final fate of books will go somewhat the way of the vinyl record player. While clearly 'obsolete,' they still exist as a niche that many people seem to value quite highly. The same people who tell you 'you just can't replicate the sound of a vinyl record' are the same type of people who fervently defend books with 'you just can't replicate the feel and smell of paper.' Obviously there is nothing wrong with this statement and there are enough people who hold vinyl players in high regard that the market for them has been kept alive. Traditionally, vinyl players were mass-manufactured and cheap. Now their production has moved to small-scale but high priced which savvy small-business owners will continue to thrive on. I believe books are destined for the same fate but held in much higher regard by collectors - as a vestigial relic of the past whose numbers will dwindle but never die, immortalised by their legacy as the object that carried the evolution of our species from the mud to the stars. 


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#10
Nick1984

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Hopefully never, some people on here are obsessed with a digital-only future where traditions are completely erased.

Technology changes but people don't, some people will always prefer a good old fashioned book.

#11
Alislaws

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Hopefully never, some people on here are obsessed with a digital-only future where traditions are completely erased.

Technology changes but people don't, some people will always prefer a good old fashioned book.

This must be why cave paintings of stick figures have remained such a persistent and widely enjoyed method of conveying stories even with paper books being in all ways superior.

 

(/s)

 

I think Maximum7's timeline might be a bit fast but I'd love someone to actually explain why books are some great cultural treasure that children are going to seek out, learn about and preserve over countless generations.

 

Do you have anything beyond "I like it, so surely this must be universal" to support the idea that liking books is somehow inherent to humanity, and will not be replaced by newer methods of transmitting information between people?

 

There might be some interesting ideas about how the format of a written story will always have a place but as is said before even that is subject to change eventually.

 

There's already loads of people who don't open a book after they leave school, if education and training move away from books eventually many people will go their whole lives without reading any.



#12
Yuli Ban

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Books are technically obsolete, though there are still plenty of obstacles towards fully phasing them out. For example, audiobooks can be a bit cumbersome if all you want is a little light reading in silence. E-books are limited by power. I can buy or check out a book, set it down, and come back to it whenever I want. Whereas with e-books and audiobooks, I need to make sure my device actually has some juice in the first place. Then I need to scroll down or fast forward to my desired point— e-books can get around this thanks to the Find/Search feature but audiobooks have it a bit harder. And you do often need to wait for the document to load. 

Plus, unless you've downloaded e-books and audiobooks, providers like Amazon can actually remotely remove these from your digital library. They'd need to send firemen to your house if they wanted to get rid of physical books, and most people would recognize that they're living in a totalitarian state by the time it got to that point; with remote removal, an author with enough clout simply wanting their works permanently erased could have the same effects without the need for the totalitarian state behind it.

 

The only way that paper books could become truly obsolete is if brain-computer interfaces and mixed reality advance far enough that you could access a book with your thoughts without any loading or power drain, but:

  1. Even then, there will be antemillennialists (I presume plenty of people before the 1990s would have made the same argument if they considered having a nigh-infinite number of books instantly available on a pocket supercomputer)
  2. By the time it gets to that point, most things will be obsolete

 

I don't want to get mystical and say that there is something holy, pure, or honest about feeling the crispness of paper when reading a book that you can't get with an e-book— assume that technological progression slows drastically and people from the 22nd century are still using smartphones and tablets, and I assure you there would be hundreds of millions of "e-book purists" who can't imagine reading books any other way just as we have paper book purists today; likewise, there's nothing that essentially makes paper books worth more than stone tablets other than the fact we consider stone tablets horribly obsolete. However, physical books do have an inherent level of value that e-books might never have because they are, indeed, physical. You don't need any middleman technology to read them other than paper itself and your own literacy.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.






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