The Future of Books in the Information Age Literature Essay
Reading books is one of the biggest joys people have. Throughout history people enjoyed spending time reading books and devoting their time to writing. However, the modern times are changing this process greatly by giving way to e-books and different way of writing. The future of writing will be very different since the texts produced now and later on will include various features they did not have before such as hyperlinks and multimedia content. The future of the books in the information society will change in a similar way because there will be a significant shift to e-books and digitalization, and the paper books will lose their dominant role. Therefore, the reading and writing industry awaits significant changes.
The Future of Writers and Books in the Information Society
When it comes to the future of books in the information society, it is important to speak about e-books and relation of the modern customers to them because e-books will be the major tool for future readers. The publishers believe that the amount of e-books will increase greatly due to their low costs and high revenues they are about to bring. This view is supported largely by American publishers, whereas European publishers consider e-books as a step backwards: they see more risks than opportunities in using them. Representatives of the companies doubt the prospects of the digital industry. They act slowly, being afraid to reduce sales volumes of printed books.
The fact that the reading industry is changing is seen in the innovations of the business giants that introduce and focus on e-books. Amazon, which is one of the biggest world companies, focuses on e-books greatly and digitalizes books with a specific emphasis on Kindle series. When speaking about the future of reading such e-books, it is also important to mention that writing will change as a result. Thus, people will be able to use hyperlinks or become co-authors, which was not possible before. Also, the changes transform the book phenomena in a new reality, presenting users with updated possibilities in such spheres as bookmarks, libraries, donative inscriptions, donation and borrowing books, thus making the entire reading and writing process digital.
The Future Decrease of Paper Books
According to the conservative forecast, by 2016, a half of the people who read will begin to read on their own electronic readers. However, it is important to mention that not many people read; for instance, in America, half of the population does not read at all. 80% of American citizens did not buy any book during the last year. For instance, 33% of the people without degrees never bought any books, and there are 42% of college graduates who never bought books (Zickuhr and Rainie). However, according to some researchers, the mankind will never cease to read, but the way of reading will strongly change soon (Gaiman).
E-books will give readers a set of opportunities inaccessible during an era of paper books, but it will be difficult to replace paper books completely. A strong argument in favor of keeping paper books is the sensation they give, like different experiences when touching paper pages and so on. Those experiences are absent in e-books with their smooth plastic or glass covers. The “real” book, as people often refer to traditional paper books, unlike electronic, evokes deeper feelings on the readers, involving different areas of a brain, which may contribute to a slower change of the reading approach.
A person reading a paper book feels the book with his or her hands and enjoys other pleasant experiences. Of course, an e-book also can assist a person in his or her reading progress and has many different features, but it is perceived absolutely differently from the paper experience. Besides tactile perception of pages, people can feel the books’ smell, see different fonts, feel textures and material of a cover; and these features appear to be extremely important and even irreplaceable for some readers. The more actively and more variously the brain interacts with the book, the better a person remembers what he or she reads.
However, despite all this, paper books will become rare souvenirs, subjects of symbolical but not practical appointment in the near future, as mentioned by various modern researchers (Lincoln). Lincoln draws an apocalyptic picture of how the mankind will get rid of a huge number of paper books, which will be taken away at first by enthusiasts and libraries, and then they will become unnecessary even for them; this way, reading will be completely different from the way it is now.
New Opportunities of E-Books
E-books will change the way annotation in the books is presented. Reading books on devices from Amazon and Sony, everyone can already highlight snippets of text. In her article, a journalist Agresta focuses on the fact that Amazon and Sony develop their own storage system annotations and work with them; however, there is a problem synchronizing annotations in books on different devices. It is necessary not only to the reader at a particular moment; his or her descendants will certainly be interested in seeing the notes of their relatives, which will be difficult to manage with the access to various accounts.
Agresta sees a niche for a startup that could become an “annotation engine” not only for all formats of e-books and documents but also for printed books. For example, any active housewife cookbook contains a large number of additions and comments to recipes that have an obvious intrinsic value. The idea of the “engine” was created by Larry Page; however, in the process of working on it, it somehow turned to Google (Agresta).
There is also a problem with donative inscriptions and autographs on books. Perhaps, in each family there will be sentimentally guarded a small volume that was signed to the owner by mother, the grandmother or the author of the book. E-books do not yet include a feature similar to the opportunity to write something personal on the blank cover. Naturally, it has to appear in the future — as well as an opportunity to store these inscriptions. Apple or Amazon for certain will create such an opportunity for book readers — and readers will need to pray that Apple and Amazon were not closed, having carried away with itself all their precious autographs. However, even here there is a niche for a startup – a hipster boutique hotel, which will be printed for the people to their favorite eBooks with all the inscriptions and annotations.
The idea of renting e-books belongs to the largest publishing and book-selling company Barnes & Nobles (“About B&N”). Borrowing books appears to be a very romantic thing to do. Thus, if someone gives a friend his or her favorite book, the former will read it and understand the book owner better. In such a way, the general literary experience can connect people. Therefore, the owner of an e-book must have an opportunity to give it to someone else to read (without being afraid that he will tear it or “will forget to return” it) (Convissar).
Secondary E-Book Market
Legally authorized and second-hand technically functional market of e-book readers does not exist yet, but it will inevitably appear. Publishing houses will allow users to resell books bought from them on special sites. Most likely, they will set a specified period after the release of the book – a year or two – after which the book can be resold. Such option is going to appear in the near future. Thus, in 2013 Amazon patented a technology of selling already used digital goods, including books (Wohlsen). In fact, the service that enables the user to store digital goods and transfer the rights over them to other users was patented; thus, there will be an opportunity to share books or music move between users (Thompson).
Changes in Content and Book Distribution
Actually, the process of borrowing, renting or reselling digital goods would be reduced to manipulation with the rights of access to this product and its reproduction on the user’s device. Books which are stored on devices as local files are already on the way out. Digital goods will not belong to people soon. Now there is at least an illusion of owning a book as a file — everyone can download, share from one device to another, copy or send it by mail. Similarly, books will be soon delivered to one’s device by a streaming continuous broadcasting, page by page as in case with music or movies now.
Having read a book, nothing remains from it on the device. Actually, Google Books already works in such a way. People do not buy a book but the right to read it. Humanity goes back to the previous stage in the evolution of entertainment when there were only radio receivers and TVs accepting transfers, showing them to us; there were not even audio- or videotapes. There will be completely new and unexpected formats and genres of literature such as, for example, the past decade’s “SMS-novel.”
The first such novel was composed and sent to readers in Japan in 2003. It is written in the form of instantly dispatched SMS, one message after another, to readers, without being published as a book. However, the first Japanese novel was so popular that, nevertheless, a printed book was published and a movie and a TV series were released. By 2007, 98 phone novels have already been released in the form of printed books. Now their popularity grows both in Asia, Africa and in Europe. These are short works, the authors of which develop their own language and style of literary minimalism (Norman).
Books as Social Networks
Even now, reading a book on Kindle, people can see public summaries from other readers. Already, there are services that allow sharing their own annotations, bookmarks and comments of others. There are some obvious technological steps before the transformation of each e-book into a small thematic social network uniting people in any countries who discuss it with each other. Perhaps, it will be one social network for all books, and each separate book will have its own “channel” of discussion moderated by an expert or an enthusiast.
Naturally, the author will be able to participate in discussions of the book, give sessions of questions and answers, receive feedback, etc. It will be a kind of virtual book club in which communication is not necessarily limited to a discussion of a particular book. It may be only a pretext, the beginning of the conversation; and it will be possible to communicate with many people at once or with one person who interested the most in a private chat. Moderators can select the most interesting discussions and save them for reading as after they were discussed in conversations in chat rooms or in social networks comments. This, strictly speaking, is not new – for example, in the Judaic tradition there existed an ancient genre of writing comments to the sacred texts that were released as a book, even comments to the comments (Carlin and Macke).
The Death of the Author
The concept of authorship of the books will be diluted and changed after the readers will be able to actively communicate with the writers. An eBook is easy to modify and re-release with other characters and alternative plot moves, thus readers can become co-authors. The book will become more similar to a video game, the founders of which develop landscapes and heroes, and what exactly is done by these heroes, depends more on the players. IDEO writes that all the books in the world are actually one big book – Facebook of books. Within this network, the book related to each other as people in the “Facebook” in a relationship of friends, colleagues, parents and children and so on. No book exists by itself; it has something to do with other books and is included in the total cultural and historical context. Reading books should be the same as browsing websites on the Internet – with the ability to follow links from its pages, to see information referred to in the text field or people, or even move to another book, read it and come back or not (IDEO).
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The New Book Economy
When someone reads the e-book, information about the page he or she is in is constantly transferred to the manufacturing company of the reader. It is necessary to synchronize reading on different devices. But thanks to this, it would be receive information about the speed with which a person reads a particular book and how far he or she has advanced. Receiving such information from different people will make it clear what books are read up to the end and what books are often thrown away, what chapters in a book people pass and what re-read.
Booksellers and publishers can use this information and transmit it to the author for the improvement of the book. Perhaps the author will rewrite paragraphs overlooked in easier terms, provide the reader with explanations, or add illustrations. Authors will find an opportunity to test different versions of the story on different audience groups. And, of course, it will be possible to target advertising in a book or on foreign markets on the basis of what people are reading right now or have already read. Through advertising, books will be cheaper or even free.
Why People Will not Stop Reading
Nevertheless, SMS-novels and interactive broadcasts on a device can hardly be called books. Sturgeon believes that people will continue to read in the future. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that it forces to work more actively on imagination to turn abstract letters into experiences and stories, into emotions and bright images. As long as people know how fun this is, the book will exist, albeit in a completely new sort.
According to the view of some publishers expressed in the forum, e-book is a natural form of paper books. It is likely that at first digital literature paper publication will be stimulated because since the time it elapsed since the invention of the printing press, this form has become habitual. A similar situation took place at the dawn of the automotive industry. The first car resembled a horse without a crew because its creators could not imagine another vehicle. Perhaps in the future, e-books will get additional features that will distinguish them from paper predecessors. Nevertheless, electronic books are unlikely to fully replace traditional publications. As the theater did not disappear with the advent of the cinema and television, so traditional printed books are will not be completely replaced by e-books.
Therefore, the given paper provides argument that the reading and writing industry are likely to experience significant changes thanks to the technological progress. The latter will provide people with more opportunities whenever they will be reading books, and enable them to change the way they write. However, these are only predictions while it is impossible to know for sure how the technology will develop and what preferences people will have in the following decades.