Where Are Books Headed In The Next Five Years?
Since the beginning of time, people have been sharing stories, anecdotes, myths, legends, and philosophized ideas. As a species we’ve thrived on the back of this ability to distribute information. To this day we long for gripping literature as one of our main outlets for entertainment.
In terms of form, however, our sharing of stories has changed and adapted alongside our societies over time. Today we are seeing yet another shift, as the internet once again revolutionizes the way we read. The next five years are set to see some drastic changes in terms of how we get our books.
The World of the Word
Early man heard stories shared through word of mouth. They were simple anecdotes told around campfires or to restless children. The years went on, and carvings on stone tablets were replaced by the scribes of Ancient Egypt who documented spiritual writings and the histories of great kings on sheets of papyrus. In the East, slates were replaced with a miraculous invention of paper in the year 1 AD.
This type of book spread all across the ancient world, with handwritten copies of some of the greatest early works finding popularity in this form. It wasn’t until the printing press was invented in 1440 that another really significant change occurred in the form of the printing press.
For the first time since the introduction of mass printing, we’re seeing a whole new shift in the way we enjoy books. Our online world has provided endless new possibilities for how we can read, and recent advances are sure to just be the beginning.
Although the audiobook has theoretically been around since Thomas Edison used his newly-invented phonograph to record spoken word, it didn’t really find its feet until the oncoming of the story tape in the 1970’s. Thanks to broadband technologies, sales of audiobooks then skyrocketed around the turn of the millennium. We now see sites such as Audible act as mass online distributors.
This same era saw the invention of the e-book, as Project Gutenberg was founded in 1971 with a sole dedication to digitalize cultural works. However, once again it was the introduction of the world wide web in the 1990s that shot the format to the common practice that we see today. Similarly, the release of Amazon’s Kindle in 2007 did a significant amount to market the format and make it available to the average consumer.
However, not everyone is happy with these changes, and many have voiced their concerns. Most romantically, people mourn the loss of feeling a real book in your hands, embarking on a journey from cover to cover and physically being able to leaf through pages. Practically, it’s also much harder to flick back through an eBook to find previously mentioned information. Similarly, the bookstore community environment is beginning to feel threatened, as online marketplaces allow readers to purchase books in seconds on their e-reader devices without ever leaving the house.
Another more immediately alarming problem that has been highlighted in recent years are the security holes in e-book devices putting your personal information at risk. Kindle and devices like it will often save card details for convenient purchasing, but that convenience means it’s easy for cybercriminals to access information. Although you can get around this by using a Virtual Private Network that works well with Kindle, it’s a problem that many feel needs to be properly addressed if we’re going to pursue reading in this format entirely.
Whispers of Change
Although we may think that all the changes that could happen heave already occurred, this is not quite the case. There have already been whisperings of potential developments that could once again revolutionize the way we read. E-book subscription services such as Kindle unlimited or Scribd indicate the beginning of a whole new era in reading.
Often compared to Netflix except for books, these services act as an online library. They give us incredible access to hundreds of titles for a monthly fee. The days of whiling away the hours at the local public library have already long since passed for most people, so could this be the answer we’ve been looking for?
E-book subscription services have had a bumpy start, with many companies going bankrupt or having to dramatically edit what they offer after just a few months in existence. They were almost completely ruled out after industry giant Oyster went under, but rumors suggesting this was due to Google hiring their entire board of executives say otherwise. It’s quite possible we’re about to see the launch of one of the biggest e-book subscription catalogues in existence at some point in the next five years.
The Future of Reading
Yet what do all of these changes really mean for books? Many are suggesting that in the near future the traditional book format might become obsolete altogether. As even schools and colleges are migrating their materials onto a digital format, any necessity to have words on a page is being negated. Personally, I believe that there are too many die-hard paperback fans around to let this happen just yet, but be sure to watch this space.
Similarly, the shortened attention span of this generation could also be calling for a reduction in length of what we read. It’s possible the next five years will witness a rise in short stories over epic novels alongside other works that could be read in a few minutes.
There’s no denying that the way we read is changing, but we can do little more than speculate as to exactly how that will take form. If you have any more thoughts on this discussion, we’d love to hear your ideas. Please leave a comment below and keep this conversation going.
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About the Author: Cassie is an entertainment blogger for Culture Coverage. She has been a lover of books all her life and loves that the advent of the internet has made it easy to access great new stories. That being said, she’s not ready to see the end of the physical book just yet!