Books 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.
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.