Do you think books are obsolete?

I’m getting worried 'cos I run a bookstore and been looking at Amazon Kindle, Sony’s devices and the Iliad and have been thinking that people are gonna stop buying books altogether.

Even though I have a palm and do read books on it, I still buy physical books. I just use the palm so when I go places I have can have more than 1 book with me.
In my opinion, no physical books are not obsolete.

Obsolete?! Absolutely not.

Aside from the visceral reaction to your question, no I don’t think they are. They may be at some point in the future, but I think that first people will have to be willing to move past the physical nature of a book, and a sense of satisfaction at its tangibility being able to touch and hold.

I hear they are nice, but I just don’t see myself replacing my books with one. Supplementing, maybe, but not replacing.

I love the smell of new books. I like to curl up on the couch with books, and page back to the beginning, or flip back and forth to the endnotes/the current chapter. I just don’t think a hunk of electronics will be quite the same. And bookstores are wonderful places. The problem with buying downloads is, I think, that you get what you are specifically looking for, and you have less of an opportunity to discover something new. When I go to a bookstore, I like to see what “jumps off the shelf” at me, and I have found some great things that way. It’s hard to do that when you are searching online.

Not yet.

They certainly might become so eventually, but as long as the Kindle and similar devices have battery life, boot-up times, and a screen more straining to the eyes than print on paper, books won’t be obsolete.

But hey, record players are obsolete and still have a market.

Ah, I don’t think they’d cease to exist but as the primary “delivery system” of the written word books may become marginalised by electronic devices. I wonder are books considered to be a safer bet for long term storage of written information?

Since every PDA, phone, MP3 player and laptop I’ve ever had has broken, sometimes simultaneously in a murder/suicide, no, I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of the physical book.

No, they’re not obsolete, in a couple of ways.

I read books for two things: work and not work. For work, much of the research I do needs to be done online, because it’s faster and more complete than what can be done in books. But sometimes the research is more efficient in books; if I don’t know what I’m looking for precisely, I can more easily get the lay of the land in books. I can flip back and forth, and chase down interesting ideas in a book, whereas online, I have to know the right terms to search before I can get where I need to be.

For not work reading, I like the heft and feel of books. I like to be able to flip forward and back quickly to see how the story comes out, or how the chapter ends. In biographies, I love the pictures and sometimes the footnotes; I like to be able to flip back to see what the people looked like, or what the author believes supports his opinions.

And for bonus points, I love getting lost in a bookstore. When I moved into my current house, I purged my books to fit the space, but since that time, I’ve acquired probably a hundred books, many of which I still haven’t read. But they’re options, and I like options.

Also, until they make an e-book that’s safe to read in the pool, real books are safe.

Heck no. If anything, I’d like to see a device that makes an actual book physically easier to read (like when you’re laying in bed and trying to prop your head up with one hand while holding open a tight paperback in the other), rather than a device that stores a bunch of books.


I love books (I bought a bookstore in 2001, and I’m a writer). Their batteries never die, if I lose a paperback book on an airplane or a beach it’s no big deal, and I haven’t found anything yet that replaces the feel of a paper book. I can’t quite imagine having my favorite author sign my Kindle, and it would really piss me off to have to pay Amazon to transfer my own content to a device I’d purchased from them.

I have a whole tall bookshelf full of autographed books (most autographed to me personally), and quite a few leatherbound volumes and old first editions. I have textbooks with highlighting and underlining that I still sometimes refer back to 30 years later. Certain books trigger fond memories: the book I won as a contest prize on a cruise when I was 8 years old, the book about cheetahs that I bought in Nairobi to read while on camera safari, the conference proceedings where I gave my first paper, the book my mother used to read to me when I was sick, and the old Tolkien boxed set that I’ve reread until it’s darned near fallen apart.

I can’t imagine if my Kindle were broken, stolen, or lost while traveling, and there weren’t real, live bookstores with real, live books where I could pick up something else to read. I’ll zip a book into a ziplock bag and take it river rafting, but I wouldn’t risk expensive electronics that way. I hope I never see the day where my access key doesn’t work, the system crashes, or something else goes wonky and I’ve suddenly lost my entire library (yeah, I can recover it–after spending HOW many hours fighting with tech support? And what if the company goes belly-up?).

Nope. Books aren’t dead as far as I’m concerned.

Those electronics are expensive now but in a few years? My latest MP3 player cost $10.

A book has a soul. A Kindle does not have a soul. If there was a Kindle here, I would smash it with a hammer. Fuck that shit, it’s a perversion of all that is right and good.

Take a visit to your local DMV. Take a look around. That will help remind you of the large number of people who aren’t computer literate, don’t get online, don’t have an ipod, and don’t use any technology more advanced than a cell phone.

Electronic books will exist side by side with physical books for years to come. An electronic reader can have advantages. If you travel frequently or commute via public transit, I’d rather have an electronic reader. But, physical books still have some advantages. I’m sure one day there will be one way to have a public lending library version of electronic books. But, that day is still off in the future.

Well, that’s just nonsense, isn’t it. A book is entirely as artificial as a handheld device.

I don’t think books, especially coffee table photographic books, will be in any danger of obsolescence any time soon. But “soon” is relative. It may be that in 100 years or less, books will be greatly reduced, though.

The technology to replace books has been around for a while, but various ventures to do so over the years have had pretty marginal success. Most (actually all) people I know that have tried various digital book reading devices have abandoned them pretty quickly.

I don’t really know why this is. My first guess would be that their simply more used to reading text off a written page, but most of them are from a generation that grew up with computers, and are themselves pretty pro-computer, so I’m not sure thats the case. Perhaps something about the way people absorb written information simply makes us prefer it be attached to some sort of physical object?

As an aside, I rather think that its in the interest of book publishers and distributers to keep the current status quo. If people ever do adapt digital reading devices, its gonna be tough making them buy the latest Harry Potter or whatever rather then just download it from a friend.

Well, in the first place prices have to come down a lot to make it at all worthwhile. Those devices are damned expensive, and buying books for them is still just about as expensive as buying it on paper- with the disadvantage that I can’t give it to my mom or loan it to a friend when I’m done with it.

The reason why buying music electronically became so popular is that it offered not just a new medium, but a new way to buy music (by the track instead of by the album) and suddenly made buying new music a matter of pocket change. It took the price of new music from “a dinner at a somewhat nice sit-down restaurant” to “a doughnut.”

If they can make these devices cost a hundred bucks and knock the prices of new popular books (the things you’d find in the fifteen - thirty dollar range) down to five dollars I can see it surviving.

The tech isn’t quite there yet, but it’s close. It won’t be long until every student has an electronic reading device, which will be more economical for the schools and vastly more convenient for the kids than lugging around a backpack full of heavy textbooks. I think it’s pretty likely that kids born this year or very soon will grow up with fond memories of reading on their electronic devices, and they won’t share our nostalgic attachment to standard books. They’ll gladly toss the old ways aside, and leave actual books for special purposes (art, photography, coffee table books) and collectibles.

Another thing I though about was how comfortable is it to use on of those readers in bed? Like many people, I do a lot of reading in bed. If I know I’m likely to fall asleep, I"m going to have a paperback in my hands that I don’t mind if it gets dropped or I end up creasing the cover.

I think books are becoming obsolete in certain scientific fields such as medical research, as the information changes almost faster than it can be printed and distributed.

I would say the same about textbooks, except that they are too big a profitable ripoff to go gently into the night. Students will be buying already-obsolete textbooks for many years to come.

Amongst all the other reasons in this thread for believing books are far from obsolete, this one is right up there. There’s also just something about holding the physical book that is way special.