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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Question Three: Will there still be books?

Well, think of the scroll. When books first appeared, people probably said that the scroll would survive—after all, it was immortal, like the book is today.

To this day, scrolls are still featured in ceremonies and portrayed in artwork. You can see representations of the Dead Sea Scrolls in museums. You can buy chintzy little scrolls with Scripture verses on them, to infest your friends' knick knack shelves.

But—if you told those same friends that you were going to write a scroll, they would think you were doing some kind of decorative craft.

Books obliterated scrolls for practical purposes. Books better served the existing need. In the same way, e-books, Kindle, and other technologies yet to come could well obliterate the paper book within the next couple of decades. Remaining books will be ceremonial items and decor.

The worst of them will become prop under the short leg of the table (but that always happened to really bad books).

But it is not merely the paper that disappears. As a longtime editor, I know well that many features of books are constraints imposed by the need to work with paper. These constraints are meaningless in a digital world. They must necessarily disappear, though perhaps not right away.

None of this should much concern the writer because none of it means that we cannot—in principle—get our ideas across.

Question Four: Will people still want to read? That is, will they still want to learn new ideas?

If you want to know why there is an intelligent design controversy, coming to Canada as the Expelled movie, read:

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