on their way out? Probably. But if so, when?
Scribes sitting in dark rooms,
transcribing books and writings finally went away, but it took how
long? The Gutenberg press was invented about 1441, and the Chinese had
a printing press as early as 593, so it took thousands of years for the
handwritten version to cease.
The paperback book was supposed
to kill the hardback. The price disparity alone was enough to do it,
right? No, hardbacks continue to sell and will do so as long as
libraries and textbooks exist and as long as enough people prefer them.
The paperback turned out to be a new but separate market.
But then came audiobooks, and
surely no one would want either version of the printed word if all they
have to do is sit and listen to someone read to them. Truck drivers,
vision-impaired people, and traveling salesmen embraced this technology
eagerly, but again it was a separate market and did not affect the
We’ve seen the advent of DVDs,
and who would read a book when they can watch a movie of it right in
their own houses. Actually, many people want to read the book that a
movie is based on, either before or after they see it. Different
Now it is digital and e-readers,
the ability to have hundreds of books with you all the time. After the
reader makes the initial device investment, the e-books are cheaper
than and will likely rival the mass-market paperback price.
predicted a number of years ago that the e-book would not take off
until a reader base was trained to read them and be comfortable with
them. I thought it would be when textbooks
so expensive that the
electronic media would be the obvious solution. I’m starting to see
some school systems switching to e-media, but it turns out that readers
started getting comfortable with the devices without that happening.
E-books and “real” books are different markets, and while e-books may
have had some impact on the print markets, each market continues to be
We haven’t seen the last of
changes within the book industry. The hallmark of our generation is
exploding technology. More and better innovations will find its place.
But every time this subject comes up, some people say they still prefer
to go off with a cup of coffee or chocolate and enjoy a printed book. A
major portion of my job is to read material submitted to me on my
computer. I wish I had more time to read for pleasure than I do. But
the fact remains that if I am reading for pleasure, I like to curl up
with a book, though for convenience I will read them electronically.
Will printed books go the way of
the handwritten scrolls? Maybe someday. Will it take a couple of
thousand years? I don’t know, but if it does, I expect the Lord will
have come back for us before that time, so the question is academic. I
am pretty sure it isn’t going to happen in my lifetime, although as
writers it behooves us to keep up with the developing media and to take
steps to get products into it. Regardless what that medium is, people
will be needed to produce the stories to fill it.