Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The Last Book
What will the last book be about? When will it be published – and will it become unreadable? How will society start over, without books?
Any of these may come true. Perhaps all of them will, over time, come to fruition on a massive scale, wiping out towns and cities, countries and continents. The ripple effect in a global community could topple humanity.
But I suspect before those things take hold of the world, humanity will destroy itself from within, with its technology. The more we use technology, the less human we become.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Amish nor a fool. Technology is science and medicine; the things that help keep us alive and sustain our lifestyle. But technology is now going beyond issues of survival or quality of life. It is, invading our human essence.
One day, technology will do away with the printed book, and thus the book community will no longer be found in bookstores, libraries, and public places. It will be online, via social media and digital gatherings – webinars will replace conferences, podcasts will replace bookstore appearances for authors, and Facebook pages will have to suffice instead of face-to-face, in-person contact.
For the youngest generation they may not even know what they will be missing or could have had, but there will be a bridge generation, one that remembers the old way but seeks to fit into the new. And then new generations will be spawned in a post-book world.
Once books are no longer printed and long after people stop going to bookstores, all that will be left will be digital books. They will be consumed on devices of varying sizes that project 3-D images, sound, and a trove of archived footage to supplement the text. They will be interactive and seem like the norm to the newly minted generation.
But all will not be a panacea. The digitization of books means hackers could censor books, manipulate content, maybe even wipe it out. Terrorists, thieves, governments, religious nuts, insane people, and other motivated groups of invested individuals could, for any number of reasons, seek to distort, limit or delay the distribution of ideas, information, and facts.
Further, if books are in existence only because of a handful of companies or governments choose to store them – in the clouds or some other place – what happens if those corporations go bankrupt or turn corrupt? What happens if governments are overthrown or abusive in their powers? Once books aren’t printed, they only live because a few gatekeepers permit them to.
And if no one purposely seeks to destroy digital books, what if something happens where the data is accidentally lost, corrupted, or becomes unstorable? What if something happens to technology where we can’t use our machines to read the data? What If we run out of energy?
Books are one day going to move out of our personal possessions. As it is, Amazon can delete any ebook that you downloaded. You don’t really own a book anymore. Digital belongs to no one but the powers that store it and control its distribution.
One day, everything will be digitized – every bit of information, scientific studies, historical documents, captured images, and pieces of art will live online – not co-existing with its replica in the physical world, but the only version to exist – and controlled by a handful of people who will oversee the sharing of content - and thus our minds – the way electricity is doled out or water is rationed in a drought. Content will become a commodity, traded unofficially in the market of the rich and powerful.
We are entering the post-human world. Evolution will be replaced by a revolution. Our minds and bodies will be supplemented not just by devises in our hand, but in our body. We’ll live longer, but not necessarily better. We’ll be so advanced that we’ll be less human, and perhaps less worthy as the planet's caretaker.
Humanity will nearly extinct itself. It won’t die, but it will replace itself with a hybrid. Perhaps the human droid of 2240 won’t value printed books anyway. By then, we’ll have mini-computers implanted in our brains, downloading millions of books in a matter of minutes.
The future is just simply hard to fathom, but one thing is clear, some things can’t be reversed or undone. Once we go digital all in, we’ll never go back to printed books.
Unless the coming digital apocalypse forces society to start over, to figure out how to record and transfer information in a meaningful way. Books have been a beautiful thing for centuries. I truly hope they stay with us and support the economy of ideas, history, and fantasy that we sorely need.
We need to be responsible, as consumers, as publishers, as authors, and as a society when it comes to books. Digital has its place in the world, but I fear its coming domination. We are unleashing something that we won’t fully be able to control – and potentially we will fall a slave to it.
Knowledge of things past or imaginations of futures to be need to live and breathe in print – and digital. If print disappears, so does a piece of each of us.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014