The printed book: dead in 5 years? 

Well, no is the answer. 
As a renowned book aficionado, I am often asked what I think on the future of the printed book. It doesn’t really look that great for the little guys; their former glory will be shadowed, as the future is certainly digital. All e-readers, from tablets to smart phones, have gained their popularity incredibly fast and continue to grow in the market. Let’s not look to the music industry for an example; books surely won’t suffer the same fate as, say, tapes or MiniDiscs. To say they will die is more than a little harsh. 
I am among many who find this difficult to accept, I love books and take great pleasure in surrounding myself with them as sort of trophies of an achievement in having read them and having read so many. There’s a comfort for me in holding a book, in owning it as a household object, and in having something tangible I can pass on to others. This does not mean I’m not excited for the future of reading, and how we choose to read in different situations. I do confess to having read the whole of Jane Eyre on my iPhone.
The director of Harvard University Library, Prof Robert Darnton, when interviewed for Stephen Fry’s current BBC series Fry’s Planet Word, says it best:
SF: We’re producing and consuming more and more words in a digital form, but do our technological advances mean that the printed version of the book will become as moribund as the clay cuneiform tablet?
RD: I have been invited to so many conferences on ‘the death of the book’ that I’m convinced it’s very much alive, and we have statistics to prove it. Each year more books are produced than the previous year, there was a dip during the recession, but next year there will be one million new titles produced worldwide. Yet at the same time, more digital works are coming out, and the future is decidedly digital, but I think we’re living in a time of transition, in which the two media coexist, and I think that’s what makes it so exciting. 
SF: And they’ll continue to coexist?
RD: One thing we’ve learnt in the history of books, which is a huge expanding field, is that one medium does not displace another. So of course, as you know, the radio did not displace the newspaper, and television did not kill the radio, and the internet did not destroy television, and so on. So I think what’s happening now is that the electronic means of communication; all kinds of hand-held devices on which people read books, are actually increasing the sales of ordinary printed books.
SF: Or the same number of people are reading more, one or the other.
RD: I think both, but that I can’t absolutely prove. However, it’s certain, I think, that a lot of people use hand-held electronic devices for one kind of reading and they use a codex for another kind of reading, and that the interest in availability of books online is getting people more excited about reading in general. I think it’s a fascinating moment when reading itself is undergoing a change.
So digital books are predicted to replace physical books as the dominant form in which they are produced, but this does not mean the printed book will be displaced and inevitably die out. In actual fact, e-books and printed books will coexist in our digitalised future. Currently, in the US and UK, e-books hold only 6% of the market share and that is expected to rise to up to 25% in the next 5 years. Not 100%, I may add.
Further reading here and here

Image credits: 1. Oracle Fox 2. Nam for Grazia

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