Saturday, May 28, 2011
Will history disappear along with books as we know them?
Bookstores are closing and e-book sales are starting to outstrip printed books at Amazon. Today Amazon, tomorrow the world. The tipping point is near. Soon books on paper will become as old-fashioned as photographic film, done in by the same digital revolution of price, convenience, and digital connectivity and all it makes possible. There will be hardcover books around for a long time, just as there are many photographers who still swear by film and audiophiles who treasure their vinyl albums. But for most of us, most of the time, what we'll be reading won't be books but digitized hybrids.
Books will start morphing into something else, the same way that records and albums became tracks and mp3s. As books become virtual, will hyperlinked snippets and samples and remixes replace the extended discourses between readers and authors we know as books? Digital media lure us in into an electronic present of perpetual upgrades to the next new thing. Will the past come to be seen as an obsolete operating system? Will history disappear along with books as we know them?