The end of books?

I took part in a slightly off-topic discussion about books last night at the Northern User Experience group meeting. It digressed onto the question, will e-readers ever replace books?

It started with the idea of people printing documents from their computers in order to reduce eyestrain caused by reading from a monitor, or to read in a more leisurely manner, slumped on a sofa for example.

So, what’s the alternative? Despite Xerox’s attempt to produce the digital equivalent to paper (before someone else beats them too it and forces their demise), the closest we have to an alternative are e-books, such as Sony’s E-reader or Amazon’s Kindle. They have recently launched but I’ve yet to see a decent review from anyone but those paid to write them.

One of the main arguments against e-books taking over is the idea that people have an emotional connection to printed books. I can understand this argument. I love my books, I proudly display them and am constantly adding to my collection. There’s something comforting about the smell, the typeface, the turn of the pages. However, I think to claim this is going to stop future generations taking up e-books and having the same passion for them is naive.

If children in schools each have an e-book, capable of holding every text book they need for the day and are able to download new books online in seconds, I’m sure they will wonder why we ever printed books in their cumbersome format. Would they not develop the same emotional connection to their e-books as we do to our paperbacks?

We may be some time off, but it’s certainly not beyond what I can imagine as possible in the near future. I did, however, enjoy this article from the Guardian – 14 features that e-books will need to have in order to match the qualities of a book:

I don’t think they are all unachievable!


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