I'm typing this with my ukulele next to me contemplating the question I get constantly..."Are books going to go away?" I guess it's because I'm a librarian, but I get this question a lot. By students, parents, coworkers, friends, etc. In some ways I'm flattered, it means I'm an expert on something other than witty comebacks and ninja stars. In other ways it terrifies me that I live in an age that this question is on everyone's mind. Because this question comes up so often I think about it constantly. Much of that has to do with job security. No books=no job. Or does it?
Will books go away because of the invention of ereaders and tablets?
My short answer is yes. In 20-30 years a majority of physical books will go away. We will all have tablets to read from. Been in Barnes and Nobles lately? It's a Nook factory. Think about cell phones...no one had one 5 years ago. Now EVERYONE has one. Almost everyone has a smart phone. Because they are cheap, easy to use, and the world is developing apps to use your smartphone in new/progressive ways everyday. This will happen with ereaders. Especially in schools. E-versions of textbooks are a heck of a lot cheaper than physical text books. Also, along with reference materials (i.e.-encyclopedias) online versions can be updated quickly and cheaply. Schools are always looking to cut costs. Textbooks for one subject for one year for a typical school cost about $45,000. That is a lot of hot dogs people. And these textbooks are out of date as soon as you buy them. E-versions will be much cheaper, and interactive. So for non-fiction ebooks will take over. Especially when ebook readers are now as cheap as $60!!! And so many books are available for free or much less than a physical book.
However, not all books we read will be ebooks. I really feel physical books are part of our culture. Fiction and children's books will be enjoyed with physical books for decades to come. I can't imagine books not here. Even with technology improving our communication and the accessibility of information nothing has improved the book. It is still the best way to read.
Will books go away because of competition from non-reading activities.
There are so many things to do besides read. Have you watched television?! It's awesome. And movies are getting better and better. Plus video games...um Skyrim completes me. But will this take over reading? Many say yes. I say NO! I posted awhile ago about the PEW research about reading today and it is not going anywhere. If anything reading is at an all time high, especially with young adult readers. There is so much more out there to read, more accessible, new genres, more exciting, and more venues are promoting reading.
You need to realize that reading is part of American culture. Our First Amendment right is freedom of speech. This includes the written word. It has always been important that we express ourselves through words. It's who we are. We have been reading and writing since we got off the boat, and we always will. Physical books are also a part of our culture. I once worked with a custodian who was from Mexico. Before he left to go back he made me promise I would eventually go to Mexico and help him get his family/people to read for fun. According to him, they don't, even his sister who is a principal doesn't read for fun. There is not a culture of reading, like there is here.
And as for job security, you still need someone to suggest a book, to help you find what you need, and to help you wade through the fields of information. That's right, your friendly neighborhood librarian!
Visit one today!