GAY AND GRAY: Gay and Blessed with Holidays
New Years Eve at Home

Elder Predictions for the Future of Books and Reading

AmazonKindle The Kindle and its kin are a revolution in the making. The current version can hold about 1500 non-illustrated books, about as many as I have in my home. If nothing else, it is a space-saver and, if many people adopt it as their reader of choice, an untold number of trees will be saved. On the whole, it appears to be a good idea.

LibraryShelves Still, I like my library of books in this room. It and the dozens of other books scattered on most flat surfaces of my home are friends and acquaintances who never let me down.

Some of their jackets evoke memories of times gone by – periods in my life when they were a new-found interest. A few are beloved, frequently re-read in whole or part because they lift my spirits and feed my soul. Others could certainly be dispensed with. I will never re-read P.D. James; John LeCarre is less compelling since the end of the Cold War. But Graham Greene remains a keeper.

When I was a child, books were my favorite gifts. With each one, a world previously unknown to me was revealed and I was (still am) eager for the next one that comes into my life. Books were still revered in those days as valuable possessions - so much so, that on the first day of school, in the fifth or sixth grade, as we sat at our desks with our shiny new texts, the teacher taught us the proper way to open a book for the first time so not to damage its spine. I still do that.

Undoubtedly, I will purchase a Kindle kind of reader one day, but I think I will wait until it can be folded up to fit into a pocket or handbag. But I wonder if a book, without heft or shape or taking up space, can become as beloved as - oh, say The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly has been for me over many decades?

Will Magic Markers, which have yellowed so many lines of so many of my books, go the way of White Out? Will books (and their ideas) be less prized when they exist as nothing more than electronic blips on a screen? (Amazon announced that for the first time ever, electronic books outsold paper books on their website the day after Christmas.) Will others, like me, miss that an electronic book cannot fall open to a page you've read many times? Does it matter?

Perhaps, like me, you received a survey invitation yesterday from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This one is looking for predictions about the future of the internet and how it will have changed life (or not) a decade hence. What I like about this survey is that the questions are purposely designed to not be easily answered. Such queries as:

Will Google make us stupid?
Will social relations get better?
Will our relationship to key institutions change?

With each question are two answer choices which, themselves, provoke more questions and best of all, unlike 99 percent of surveys, there is a text box in which participants are encouraged to write further about their chosen answer.

With books on my mind and the end of the year being nigh and therefore ripe for predictions, I have appropriated the Pew question about reading for today's blog post. Since most visitors to Time Goes By grew up in the same era of reading as I with no television, video games or internet to use up reading time), our predictions will probably be different (not necessarily better or worse) from those of younger people. Or maybe not. Here is the question with the two possible answers and additional query:

By 2020, will the state of reading and writing be improved?

Answer 1: By 2020, it will be clear that the internet has enhanced and improved reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge.

Answer 2: By 2020, it will be clear that the internet has diminished and endangered reading, writing, and the intelligent rendering of knowledge.

Further query: Please explain your choice and share your view of the internet's influence on the future of knowledge-sharing in 2020, especially when it comes to reading and writing and other displays of information - what is likely to stay the same and what will be different? What do you think is the future of books?

Let us know below in the comments.

(If you would like to participate in this Pew survey, you may do so here using the pin number 1000.)


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Christmas in the Past

Comments

There is the odd drawback with Kindle and the like that’s not a problem with books. People take books to the beach in summer. Okay, I don’t as I don’t go to the beach in summer as it’s so damn hot. I like going in winter. Winters here aren’t the same as those in Maine and similar regions. Anyway, for those who do, sand gets into them, maybe some sea water, they get thrown around if you’re not careful. It doesn’t matter much, you can shake them out, dry them off and they are still readable.
What I do in those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, well, blazingly hot days, is get into a cool bath with a book, a gin and tonic and some music. Oops, the book falls into the bath. Okay, I can dry it off and I can keep reading. I imagine Kindle might have a problem there as well.

Dateline:2020

OMG,I am ROTFLMAO at your question !

BTW,I asked ,my BIL to also answer but he's busy texting his GF.He said SYL...

Ronni, does the above indicate to you that I think the answer to your question is Number 2 ?

About the future, I think the Kindle and other readers are a great addition to our enjoyment of books.. I have tried my son's Kindle and I really love it. You can make the text as large or as small as you prefer.The lighting is excellent under almost any condition. I took it out into the bright sunshine and could still see the page very clearly.You turn the page at the touch of a button.There are thousands of titles and they are all the exact same price.

I could go on but I don't want to sound like a commercial for this product,but I do think that many more people will enjoy reading if they use these new,more convenient readers when they can't carry a book.

I've just bought a Kindle and I love it. Will second Nancy's comments here. Peter, you can buy a waterproof zipped cover for your Kindle that will protect it even if you drop it in the bath!
Ronni, I will always keep books too - and I know younger people who say the same & do not like the Kindle! But the convenience & ease of use are wonderful, especially when your book is LARGE & unwieldy to handle. I find no difficulty with the value issue, since I am now reading classics that I would have missed (too lazy to check them out from the library & too little shelf space).
I hope I will be around in 2020 to see what has happened to literacy. The internet is only one of many factors threatening it...

I feel very depressed about Kindle. It is hard enough for writers to make a living. Although people say Kindle will not kill real books, I have my doubts. The publishing industry is suffering. Independent bookstores are closing left and right. This Christmas I gave books as presents. Nothing makes my husband happier than a new book. I have heard Kindle is good for those who travel, but how many of us travel on a regular basis? I'm like you, Ronni. I love my books. No machine made out of plastic and electronics can match holding and loving a great book.

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door"
and I've got my Kindle in my hand.

The average book (I read) weighs somewhere around a pound-almost twice the weight of my Kindle.

Did the replacement of the pen with the typewriter or the typewriter by the word processor really negatively impact the quality of writing? Are books that are written now in the 21st century infereior to those written in the 20th?
Really?

If we could post pictures here, I'd show you my library containing volumes that I'ved lugged over three continents for half a century. Sometimes I sit in my "library" and just stare at all the bindings and it makes me feel good.
But the Kindle and it's colleagues is here to stay and - that's a good thing because it allows me to carry all the books I'm reading now and a few that I plan to read soon.
Almost every time I go to the Kindle Store, I find something free, or almost free that I've always wanted to read. like "Protestantism and the Rise of Capitalism" by Max Weber" and "Must We Burn De Sade?" by Simone de Beauvoir"
Viva the Kindle!

I think reading and writing will stay pretty much as they've been for a very long time now. Those who read, on any medium, will be able to write; those who can't, won't. Those who choose to read, will read, on the medium that best suits them; those that don't,won't. We may see a clearer divide between readers and nonreaders, with fewer people in the gray "functionally literate" page, but that will have more to do with the ability to get by without reading (think audio online, video instructions, icons and pictures that replace words like "push, pull, open, close, no admittance).

"Reading" is not inherently virtuous. I prove that with every romance novel I bring home from the library! The ability to read is not as important as the ability to reason and think critically. And critical thinking skills are a separate set of skills founded on...I'm not sure what, because my own aren't all that impressive. I'm just pretty sure Sarah Palin is a bad idea.

I don't buy books. I use my local library and right now I have seven books sitting on the shelf. I will go back to the library on Friday and reload...I don't want to be caught short on Sunday. And I do all of this for free. Kindle is $10? Why would I do that? And I can't loan it to a friend after I bought it? Why would I do that?

My local library is also the internet portal for all of those in the community that don't have their own PC's. So the answer to the question is #1...but only as long as we all support our local libraries and I don't believe Amazon/Kindle does that.

I think the answer is #2 but because people are using the internet in a lazy way. It could enhance knowledge but when it teaches people to not spell because it does it for them, not sure it will improve future generations. The research potential of the internet is such that when you hear something and you can't access the internet, it drives you nuts until you can get there and check it out. Libraries have wonderful resources but they are of the past and not the latest information. You cannot do a search through them that takes seconds. I love the internet but think parents need to limit their children's use of it until they develop their basic skills and even then watch them carefully as it's a minefield of risks.

I haven't gotten a kindle but mainly because I wasn't sure how I'd like reading from it. I have a ton of books and many of them likely would never make the Kindle lists as they are older and not classics. I don't think it replaces anything but maybe a different way to use it.

To continue Mythster's musical answer:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

I received a Kindle 2 as a present from my boss this year. Really excited to get it and see what all the fuss was about.

Like a kid in a candy store, it took me hours to decide what book I wanted to purchase first. Surprise! Less than half of my to-read list was available via Kindle. Bummer.

Eventually, I chose Connie Willis' "Lincoln's Dreams", a book I had been unsuccessful in finding at my local Half Priced Book store.

(Great book, by the way - historical fiction/mystery.)

I read it much faster than I would have if I had chosen the printed book format. Terrific for reading in bed, the Kindle is easy on the eyes and no more hand cramps while holding a book open.

Now pardon the analogy, but the Kindle reading was akin to a fast and furious one-night stand (not that I have partaken of such activities, ahem): filled a need and enjoyable, but not particularly memorable. Unlike my lifelong tender love affair with the old-fashioned book, the Kindle does not nourish the heart.

No getting around it, there is a certain tactile and emotional attachment true readers make to their books.

As Ronni mentioned, glancing at a binder on a library shelf can send a flash flood of memories. Maybe there is a mark or handwritten note in the margins, or perhaps a forgotten newspaper clipping, or a pressed flower from some momentous occasion. I've always delighted in finding handwritten notes when reading a used book - either from loved ones or a complete stranger.

Icing on the cake...rum in the punch.

Some books are just meant to be savored and enjoyed more than once; each successive reading bringing a banquet of both old and new delights.

I think the Kindle and its ilk will be a boon to education via textbook formats. It segues well for informational and technical reading. Even suffices good enough for snacking on fun quick reading stuff.

It will never, for me, replace my worn and ragged bound copy of Gone With The Wind or Little Women.

Some books are just too precious, too beloved to be reduced to cold and soul-less electronic text.

Besides, Rhett Butler pulled me aside the other night and professed vehemently there was no way in hell he would allow an electronic reader to compromise his honor:

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn about a Kindle!"

(My pardons to Margaret Mitchell)


Oh, one last thing:

The Kindle format has far more typos than you find in paper printed matter and it is annoying.

Example: more than once, the Kindle "saw" the word "I'll" and translated it to "FU".

The typos happened far more than I would have expected and does push you "out of the moment" when deep into a story.

Do you think this (electronic books)will provide up to date textbooks for children in areas that don't have the funding to buy new every few years? That's a comforting thought for me. Like you Ronni, someday I'll probably use a Kindle, but for now I've got my books & my wonderful local library. Dee

I'll give up books when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers. I looked at Kindle and was not interested. I have been turning pages too many years and have no desire to stop.

I'll buy an electronic reader when it costs $50, has big buttons, feels like a book, won't harm environment.

Too many people looking down at screens, not at each other. Funny how each new electronic gizmo pushes people away from each other. Soon we can all go out naked. Nobody will care, as screens trump faces.

I like the feel of a book, but that goes back to childhood books like Dick and Jane.

I can be persuaded to move forward, electronically, if doing so is worth it.

Where do dead Kindles go?

Landfill?

Greetings, I am with the last commentator. Not only -- where do the kindles go - to the landfill of course. Lets look to the future and say kindles will become like the calculators and now computers, cheaper and cheaper, easier to throw away. As a result more and more toxic stuff for our water to crawl through in our landfills, manufacturing toxic fumes spitting into our air circulating the globe as more plastic kindles are made, plus encouraging books on the run. Many more levels of discussion -- Hey someone write a book about this! About #1 and #2 who can foresee the future? -- barbara

Unpacking a box of books onto the shelves of a new home unleashes ideas and words and memories and thoughts and pictures and I somehow don't see how the Kindle could do that.

Were I commuting on public transportation I might find it useful (portable, self-lit) but who wants to hold a plastic covered anything while you're in the tub?

It also annoys me that it's not available for touching and testing; I examine the paper and the font of any book I'm buying and I'd like to do the same with the Kindle.

Every time I post about my love of books I receive "me, too" comments ... progress does not mean that we throw out the old .... my house has a furnace and a fireplace, after all.... and I love them both.

Like you, I love the physical book and like you I have a large section of my living room walls covered by books.They bring me both physical and emotional comfort and I cannot imagine being without them.
I do not see the internet affecting writing one way or another. Those who
love to read and write will continue to do so in spite of changing medium.
The greatest advantage of the internet lies in its ability to deliver information at rapid speed.
The younger generations in spite of having adapted to reading print books will find it just as easy to read with a kindle because they have been nutured on technology and so will not have as
strong an attachment.
I personally hope the printed book never enters obsolescence.
I would like to see a kindle or other electronic book with a face that mimics
a hard cover perhaps with a list of classics or bestsellers on the cover.
Several different options could be offered so that when one of our generation uses it , we can still get the feel (just a little) of holding a real book.

I too live in a library. Right now, nursing a cold, I am rereading a pile of lite stuff that my non brain status can understand.

The internet, computers, and Kindles.....all have improved my spelling, of all things. They have cut my reading down, have led thousands of kids to use the written word again, and they are changing the way we all view ourselves and the world.

Let's throw open the door and see what happens. :)

My concern with Kindle (and all digital information) is the inherent transciency of the medium, and the ease with which it can be manipulated and/or censored. And yes, I believe that Google will make us stupid. I don't have to remember anything anymore; I can just look it up. I'm a public school librarian, and have often made the comment that the Internet has rotted my brain!

I have a Kindle. I find I buy more books on it, and I read more books now, because they seem more portable to me. I feel the same way about Audible.com e-books, which I listen to in my car. Right now I'm reading Margaret Atwood's new novel on the Kindle and listening to James Winchester's Krakatoa. i GUARANTEE I would not have read either one of them in another format. Digital media just makes it so easy to buy and consume books. You don't have to go anywhere or really do anything.

Forgot to tell you: I have a Ph.D. in literature and taught it on the college level for years. Loved books until I started moving so often that they weighed me down like every other possession. Now that I'm a minimalist, the Kindle fits my current lifestyle well.

i like that it seems we are moving to the star trek future in next generation. picard was often seen reading on a 'kindle' in his quarters.
books get too heavy to move.

I travel a lot and really enjoy the "minimalist" aspect of the Kindle. With that and my little netbook, digital camera, I-Pod Shuffle and a cell phone all fitting into my backpack, I'm as portable as can be. Add a small roll-on suitcase, and I'm ready to go!

I remember a video someone sent me. A monk is sitting in a dark, dank room looking at a book. He doesn't know what to do with it so he calls for tech support. They come and show him how to open the book. When they turn the first page the monk becomes concerned that the words have disappeared and tech support shows him how he can just turn the page back and the words reappear. It's very funny.

The Kindle will not make reading or writing better or worse. It will just make it different. Books changed the way we memorized history and they replaced the beautiful chisled stone histories. With every advance we lose and gain something.

I love the Kindle and predict it will make reading more accessible for many people.

I love my kindle, which doesn't mean that I have thrown away my books. But I must say that I like a long intricate novel that keeps me at it for a long time. The thing is, long intricate novels are heavy! Two of them have been sitting on my shelf forever because I can't carry any of them anywhere and even at home, they just seem to fall off my hands.
I think there's room for both books and kindles and in my case, the kindle has re...kindled my love of reading.
Someone above mentioned typos. Well, I have noticed typos in kindle books, but "normal" books have them too.
I have a long list waiting for me and am currently reading The Help, recommended to me by (what else) one of my Tweeter contacts ;) A great page turner

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