The Future of the Printed Book
R. Alan Woods
San Diego: Rhema Rising
With the technological innovations of the Personal Digital Computer and the Internet the future of the printed book will most probably go the way of the earliest devices for carrying written and graphic information, which were comprised of clay tablets (2500 B.C.- A.D.100), papyrus rolls (2000 B.C.- A.D. 700), and the codex (A.D. 150). The driving force behind the evolution of the “book” is the need to find and disseminate information more rapidly. Although the codex is still with us, the one major change in it having been the replacement of manual writing by machine printing, the introduction of computer-driven photocomposition and the emergence of the electronic book (A.D. 2000) at the end of the twentieth century provide us with the eschatology necessary to recognize the proverbial writing on the wall.
The electronic book is a major innovation in the form of the book, which has been evolving over the last forty five hundred years and as such, meets the need for “light” speed. The E-book meets societies need for readily accessible information; it assimilates the current technological knowledge and experience, our modern organizational experience and capability, the capability of integrating a new form into existing information systems, and it is economically viable. The electronic-book system, when fully developed, will need to be accessible by a device that will serve as a comfortable vade mecum for an individual user. If we define a book as a storehouse of human knowledge intended for dissemination in the form of an artifact that is portable as well as transportable, then the E-book is the future means of conveying this organized knowledge.
In the last third of the twentieth century, the book in the shape of a long familiar object composed of inked sheets folded, cut, and bound began to metamorphose into the book as a screen display on an electronic machine. The transformation, in materials, shape, and structure, of the device (The PC) for carrying written and graphic information has been more extant than any since the original creations on clay and papyrus in the third millennium B.C. While the E-book may not replace the printed book any time in the near future, I am sure that my yet unborn great-great-great-grandchildren will find it a daunting task to find an affordable if existent printed book.