Science Fiction Today – Books

BBooks are still such an important part of not only how we get information, but how we get to experience all the various stories that people have to tell. At the same time the way that we read books has changed. The invention of the printing press made such a significant impact on just having access to reading and now we have the ability for anyone to have books.

This has made almost a different issue of the number of books that can be housed in one location. Libraries create a place to be able to borrow books instead of owning, but there is something about owning books that is really nice. Now we have all sorts of e-readers and tablets that can hold hundreds of books at one time and even add the ability to have interactive elements. This is already a huge step forward in how books are created and how we read. The question is how much further can and will this progress go?

No More Books

Now one option that is sometimes seen in science fiction is that there are no more books or at least books have become a rare commodity that only the rich have access to. Some of the problem with the physical books is that the use of paper does use a resource – and if we do not need to use paper to make and read books, then isn’t that better?

One option that you see is that the world begins to exist on a virtual plane. It is no longer about the physical presence, but plugging in and transporting yourself to a digital existence and that is where the books live. The other option is that somehow you can just upload the story into your mind and just know it, like in The Matrix. These all make the physical book an unnecessary luxury.

Digital Books

Now obviously we already have digital books, but that does not mean that this type of books will not have its own advancements. The option here is that maybe instead of a physical device that we carry, we have something under the skin or bracelets that allow us to act like we are holding a book even when we are not. There is no longer a physical screen, but some sort of a projection of a screen that we can see in some way, with Minority Report or Iron Man type interactive displays. Then add on the ability to search, scan, index, and be able to follow events between the various books and we can have a brand new experience for how to read a book.

The big thing is that the likely direction is that the number of physical books that exists in this world is going to be reduced – and more and more of the books will exist in a digital world.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

34 responses to “Science Fiction Today – Books

  1. Sadly, I have to agree. I love the feel and smell of old books, but I also love downloading books on my Nook e-reader for a bargain price. We do seem to be going that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. There is something different about holding a physical book and libraries are great for that too. At the same time there is an instant gratification of just downloading the latest book in a series instead of waiting for a copy to become available at the library or lacking space to put it in my house.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. NotAPunkRocker

    As long as there is something to read vs. the Fahrenheit 451 approach to education, then I will read them in whatever form I get them 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is very true. The burning of the books at the library in Mosul just demonstrates that danger being real. Where there are those who only believe in providing approved text instead of the idea of freedom of knowledge.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting post. I work in an academic library and our e-books now outnumber our physical books (although we still have plenty of those too they are reducing). It’s a field that is developing so fast and the e-publishers haven’t got everything right yet (some interfaces are still clunky and hard to navigate, and some books limit how many people can access them at once which is frustrating) but it has made knowledge so much more quickly accessible. The rise of e-books is definitely one of those things that makes me think ”yeah I am living in the future, even if we don’t have jetpacks!”‘

    Liked by 2 people

    • The ease of accessibility is pretty incredible. It has been near to see how libraries and publishers deal with this new way to access books without just making it free books for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I also work in an academic library 🙂 We haven’t gotten our weeding quite to the point where our e-books outnumber our physical books, but one of our current pushes is weeding so that may soon happen. The transition is a lot of work – we had movers come and help us get rid of a large reference collection that we bought digital copies of, to get them to the recycling center. Was not easy or cheap. So it is definitely more than just “yay, e-book, problems solved!”

      And yes, the different interfaces and publishers and providers and no consistency or best practices yet… hopefully they’ll have this all figured out someday!

      And then we get into the briar patch of self-published books…


      • *Big wave to a fellow geek couple blogging library person* Yes the transition is a huge amount of work isn’t it? My library had a massive floor by floor refurbishment a few years back so all our stock had to be moved and it was a prime time for weeding. But there’s still a lot more to be done as we already need more study space again. E-books relieve a lot of the hassle caused by fines and missing copies but then they bring their own set of challenges and problems too. It’s an interesting time for libraries, definitely. And self-publishing, yeah that’s it’s own minefield.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I saw that! Not a lot of us blogging couples out there. At least, so we heard when we got interviewed recently:

          One question we have for the future of e-books… what would it look like weeding them? With so many, we own perpetual access, so we theoretically own them forever. Not all books *need* to be owned forever – like reference books, which need refreshing over time. It’ll be interesting to see what sorts of decisions we make someday for sorting through what we want and no longer want!


          • Great interview! I’m surprised there aren’t more of us geek blogging couples out there. Our blog Addaltmode is still very new but It’s so much fun sharing our fandoms and passions in a joint way, especially as we have different perspectives on the stuff we both love. I really like how you explain that with your “Comparative” title.

            With e-books I think the credit based model has potential for libraries. A lot of ours are bought this way: we purchase credits for so many views and then can renew credits or not as needed. It’s more admin but does allow the collection to evolve and respond to need.


          • I know of one other geek blogging couple:
            It might just be rare to have a couple where both would be interested in blogging – as the incidence of couples where both share interests should be much higher than this!

            I had not thought of the credit model for the weeding aspect, that is a good point! But it’s also the one based some of the most on the print model, with the idea that a book will only circulate so many times before they need to be replaced. Thus, built in replacement. We’ll see if that’s a model that survives!

            Oh and stick around for the letter “R” 😉


  4. I remember reading a sci-fi book once where the electronic book interface was a wafer thin roll that could be snapped out when needed. I want one of those! I think it would be a huge mental transition to go from book as object to completely virtual – would it change our entire concept of storytelling, learning, and knowledge sharing? How would it affect language development? Interesting to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The language development concept is interesting because they recommend no screen time for the first 12 months of life. As well as the fact that they have found that babies learn better from a live person than from an audio recording or even video.

      The other issue being with all the ability to self publish you have to be careful when reading as to who is writing and whether the information is vetted at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The idea of ‘uploading’ a story straight into our neural network is a little scary, and would probably take some of the fun out of it for me – either that or I would live in a perpetual fantasy world…literally stuck with my head in the clouds! But how cool would it be to actually ‘live’ the story? That’s the kind of holodeck experience everyone would want! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The holo deck experience could be great. Especially for a mystery novel. Being able to play out the story and have some of that same concept of do I really know what is happening or not.

      The idea of just uploading is scary but is something you see in some science fiction. I think it takes the joy out of the story. There is knowledge of a story and then there is the experience of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m especially interested in how the format of books will change as virtual books become more common. See: Amazon’s experiments with serializing fiction again, hearkening back to the old newspaper days. I think books will be shorter and cut into more pieces — possibly incorporating video or holographic elements either amongst the text chunks or in some other way.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. With the amount of trees that have to cut down every year for the publishing industry (no small number), I wouldn’t be surprised if MOST books do go to a digital format sometime in the future. That probably won’t happen though until the terms for ownership in digital content is altered. If I buy a book, it needs to be owned. Not just for that one device, but for any device. One universal, open-source format that all devices read (like HTML!) I look forward to that day with eagerness.


  8. I’ve never gotten into eBooks. I can’t wrap the book around my fingers on an eReader the way I can with a tangible paperback. I can’t smell the books either.
    But with every move, I wish I could get into eBooks. Packing up 1500 books is crazy. :/


    • I know other people that don’t like it either. For me it is a space issue. We do not have much more room for more books and with Geek Baby on the way we are trying to make room for books specifically for them. I have gotten used to it and for certain books I can read them on my iPhone just fine, but other things I like the book also because it is easier to flip between pages.


  9. I read an interesting SF short once where, in the future, the books were actually left behind for the poor, while the rich uploaded themselves into something of an instant access database of the entirety of human knowledge throughout history. I’ve seen this concept in a lot of different forms in sci-fi and honestly, as much as I love the feel of a book in my hands, I’m not sure which option I would like to take myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on DBCII and commented:

    Here’s one of our A to Z Challenge posts this year, in the theme Science Fiction Today! I thought this one fit in well with the theme here on the blog.


  11. I actually think that the last thing is already starting to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Chappie’s creator gives him a picture book to read about black sheep and being different. It’s adorable — and it’s a paper book.


  13. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – Virtual Reality | Comparative Geeks

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