There is much discussion about the future of books - will everything be digitized? Will books no longer exist in the beloved format we grew up with?
It wasn't until college that I made the shift to using a computer to write papers. Yep, that's how ancient I am. At first, I had to write everything out on paper and then type it into the computer. I didn't actually compose anything on the computer for a few years. It just felt, well, weird. Little by little I began writing drafts of things on the computer, which I would then print out, edit on the printout with colored pens, and then enter the edits on the computer. These days I don't even have a paper printout of most things I'm working on. I don't know what I'd do without word's "track changes" feature!
The same thing goes for reading things on the computer. It's kind of funny to notice that many people at work in the generation older than I am tend to print out their email and use lots of paper file folders to organize and store things. It was a revelation to some of them when I showed them how to make subfolders in Outlook to organize their email messages - they'd been printing everything that might be important and filing it away. And whenever something is longer than a few paragraphs, they print it out to read it. Reading from the computer screen feels hard on their eyes.
I laughed so hard the other day when I was reading a book. I was wondering what time it was, and instead of looking at my watch I glanced down at the right-hand corner of the book, and I was surprised when I didn't find a clock there, like I do on my computer screen! I read a lot straight from my computer, especially since I got a laptop a few years ago.
So it isn't much of a stretch to think that younger generations are not going to have that warm, fuzzy feeling from holding a paper-and-ink book in their hands. Maybe the thought of using a book someone else has read, complete with coffee stains and sticky spots will be revolting to them - they may well be used to reading books on their own personal devices. These "books" won't rip, warp, smell like secondhand smoke or get spots of mildew on them. They may well be waterproof and happily hang out in the bathtub or at the beach. Who knows?
Here is a review of the new Sony reader. Here is one on amazingly thin, flexible electronic paper. And for more information about the very cool item in the picture above, check out this article about Seiko Epson's UXGA e-paper display.
What about you? Do you think that one day you will curl up with a digital book? Or do you think our paper friends will be around for a long, long time?