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The End of Paper Books 669

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-folded-page dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Books are on their way to extinction, writes Kevin Kelly, adding that we are in a special moment when paper books are plentiful and cheap that will not last beyond the end of this century. 'It seems hard to believe now, but within a few generations, seeing an actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion.' But a prudent society keeps at least one specimen of all it makes, so Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, has decided that we should keep a copy of every book that Google and Amazon scan so that somewhere in the world there was at least one physical copy to represent the millions of digital copies. That way, if anyone ever wondered if the digital book's text had become corrupted or altered, they could refer back to the physical book that was archived somewhere safe. The books are being stored in cardboard boxes, stacked five high on a pallet wrapped in plastic, stored 40,000 strong in a shipping container, inside a metal warehouse on a dead-end industrial street near the railroad tracks in Richmond California. In this nondescript and 'nothing valuable here' building, Kahle hopes to house 10 million books — about the contents of a world-class university library. 'It still amazes me that after 20 years the only publicly available back up of the internet is the privately funded Internet Archive. The only broad archive of television and radio broadcasts is the same organization,' writes Kelly. 'They are now backing up the backups of books. Someday we'll realize the precocious wisdom of it all and Brewster Kahle will be seen as a hero.'"
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The End of Paper Books

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  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc . r r . c om> on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:07PM (#36495538) Homepage

    A few generations until seeing a paper book is as rare as seeing a lion? Thats a bit absurd, I dont know anyone who has thrown out their book collection after getting a kindle. I have a rather extensive collection and though they mostly collect dust now I have no plans on ditching them. I can see a day where new books are no longer published but just expecting all of the old ones to just disappear is ridiculous.

    • Now, show me someone twenty or under with an extensive paper book collection. People will stop buying paper books and people with paper book collections will die eventually.

      • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:24PM (#36495656)
        I would conjecture that the effect you're talking about has more to do with not really caring about books, rather than wanting them in digital format. Not that many people my age (26) or younger these days seem to desire to do extensive reading, whatever the format is. They gravitate towards other forms of entertainment, and for most their desire to learn is goal-oriented, not focused on learning for its own sake (and being well-read as part of that).
        • by yarnosh (2055818)
          Was there a time when the average person read so many books and "learned for its own sake?" Methinks you may be romanticizing the past.
          • I don't know that there was. I certainly wasn't trying to imply as much, so I apologize if you understood me to mean that. I'm simply saying that it isn't the case with my peers.
            • by yarnosh (2055818) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:29AM (#36496224)

              Also, I'd like to point out that most of what the average person would read probably wouldn't be considered quality literature anyway. So I wonder if there is any net effect if people begin to gravitate towards other media for entertainment. I remember when I was 18 I dated this girl who read nothing but trashy romance novels. She read them by the box full. In no way would I say she benefited intellectually from reading these books vs. watching the same stories as films (porn for women, IMO). If you look at it objectively, there's really nothing inherently better about books vs. other forms of entertainment. The only real benefit of books is that it is easier to fill them with useful information if you choose to. But you can also fill them with garbage that appeals to the masses and serves as little more than entertainment.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by tftp (111690)

                I remember when I was 18 I dated this girl who read nothing but trashy romance novels. She read them by the box full.

                On the other hand, a girl who read books on linear algebra wouldn't even notice your existence.

                If you look at it objectively, there's really nothing inherently better about books vs. other forms of entertainment.

                Books are quite different from video. If you go watch a movie, what you see is what it is, literally. Not a bit more, not a bit less. You are fed the whole story; there is no g

                • by yarnosh (2055818) on Monday June 20, 2011 @03:06AM (#36497146)

                  On the other hand, a girl who read books on linear algebra wouldn't even notice your existence.

                  Because she's out of my league or because she's socially retarded? Probably more the latter.

                  Books are quite different from video. If you go watch a movie, what you see is what it is, literally. Not a bit more, not a bit less.

                  The question isn't how they're different. The question is how they're better or more intellectual. Any moron can tell you how they're different.

                  You are fed the whole story; there is no gaps for your own imagination to fill. You consume, then the movie is over and it's out of your memory before you leave the theater.

                  No, you're "fed" information through multiple senses. It is more efficient that way. A good story is just as deep and thought provoking regardless of how you tell it. You can forget a book just as easily as a movie.

                  On the other hand, a book may tell you that the forest was dark and spooky, but you have to use your own imagination, your own memories and your own fears to "color" that picture. One book can tell as many stories as many readers it has. The book doesn't walk you, like an infant, through every bit of the story.

                  Right, because people watching movies *never* have different interpretations and experiences. What a bunch of nonsense.

                  There are other differences too. How many people watch a DVD in 10-15 minute increments? I think not many. But a book can be read this way; most fiction books are read like that.

                  A DVD is not necessarily the best comparison. Consider a series like Lost. You get weekly 41 minute doses of a single story line over the course of several YEARS. Say what you will about the quality of the story, but you have to admit that there were a lot of details to keep track of. It was enough to spawn whole communities of people dedicated to documented all the details in order to decipher various puzzles. These long running story lines are becoming much more common. Gone are the days when every TV show and movie was a single, self contained story arc.

              • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:34AM (#36496728)

                there's really nothing inherently better about books vs. other forms of entertainment.

                I don't think it is possible to disagree with you more.

                I was 9 years old when I started reading the Xanth series books by Piers Anthony. I started with the middle of series at the time. For somebody my age, the protagonist was very accessible to me. I related to him. There could never be an adaption of that book in an other form of media that could even be a shadow of that universe in my mind. Not possible.

                I was 11 when I read the full edition of the Lord of the Rings after The Hobbit. It was a family copy, which meant it was not the edited crap that was mostly available in libraries throughout the 70's and 80's. My copy (now passed down to me) was published in the 50's.

                It was indescribable to me what I went through reading that. The scope of that world, the "resolution" and "texture" that it took in my mind could never be replaced or compared too. The LOTR movies are "passable". By that, I really mean crap. They could not tell the fully story. Literally. They left out Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. I can understand that back story behind that, but as a child, I understood him to be literally beyond the powers of the rings themselves. That grabbed my mind and imagination. Even Gandalf, which accordingly, is one of the strongest and most powerful beings in all of Middle Earth. Also known as Olorin, of the Maiar and disciple of Nienna. Yet, he is still under the influence of the rings.

                The LOTR universe cannot be translated from a book. It can only be read.

                Then of course there is the ridiculous expansion throughout the Rama series with Arthur C Clarke, of which The Garden of Rama was my favorite. How could *that* be transferred to another medium?

                Maybe you are right about the average person today. However, I hated English class, with a passion of a thousand Suns. I never hated the books. Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Kafka's the Metamorphosis, Jack London's the Sea Wolf. I was exposed to all of those books through English class. I had no interest in sharing with others (at the time) what I felt about it. Fuck a book report. Seriously? How am I supposed to put into words at 10 years old what the Sea Wolf was like to me?

                I cannot put into words the worlds that were created in my head from the act of reading those books. They caused me to think, to feel, to cry, to look within myself. They showed me nobility, evil, heroism, sacrifice. Books helped me become the person I am today by shaping my experiences. Not Movies. Books.

                My love of what books did for me and where they took me can be described no better than what my punishment was a child. I was expelled from the house, but strip searched for a book first.

                There is just no way, that even the most god-like director can ever create on a screen what so many of us here on Slashdot have created in our own minds.

                Inherently no differrent?

                Sir you must be jesting. A comparison of the two is a farce at best. The difference between a flashlight and the Glory of the Sun. Whether it changes from verbal stories, to scrolls, to parchments, to paper, to digital 1's and 0's held within crystal structures makes no difference.

                The day we lose the written word, is the day we start slipping into a Dark Age, or more likely Idiocracy realized complete.

                There is only one way to go further and that is for the authors themselves to create the worlds in their minds, fully formed, and then telepathically transmit all of to us.

                Movies? I don't think so.

                • by yarnosh (2055818)

                  How am I supposed to put into words at 10 years old what the Sea Wolf was like to me?

                  You should have been able to make a film about it.

                  Inherently no differrent?

                  You need to work on reading comprehension, ironically enough. I never said movies and books are not different. I said "better." ALmost every fault you can find with movie adaptations of books can be boiled down to movies being condensed for various reasons including production costs. You can find modern TV series that are quite expansive and detailed.

                  The day we lose the written word, is the day we start slipping into a Dark Age, or more likely Idiocracy realized complete.

                  Depends on what is being written. I can't honestly say that the world is a better place for the LOTR books h

              • by Count Fenring (669457) on Monday June 20, 2011 @02:32AM (#36497000) Homepage Journal

                I would say that, while there isn't anything necessarily better about books than other forms of entertainment, there is something different. The demands on the attention span and memory from long-form written fiction are very, very different from the demands of movies, television shows, etc. Also, even if the material isn't very complex, just sheer practice means that voracious readers tend to be more fluent readers.

                And, from a less aggressively practical perspective, the novel as a medium has different strong and weak points than film or television, which carry over across all levels of quality. Example - romance novels tend to have better characterization than softcore porn directed at women - not due to any difference in quality of writing, but due to the larger space and ability to easily represent internal dialogue.

              • She read them by the box full. In no way would I say she benefited intellectually from reading these books vs. watching the same stories as films (porn for women, IMO).

                I completely disagree. If she read as much as you suggested, the increase in her literacy alone was probably substantial. The act of reading is essentially a kind of aerobic exercise for the mind; it keeps you mentally "in-shape" for reading.

                As someone who has tried it all, books, videos, films, lectures, websites etc, I can safely say that

        • by hedwards (940851)

          It has more to do with the fact that books tend to be out of date by the time they're published. Science and technology books in general are barely up to date the moment that they're published. If you're wanting to read to learn, you're probably better off reading scholarly journals.

          On top of that, you can learn so much more by hanging out on a forum dedicated to your interest era then you ever could by reading.

          • by tibit (1762298)

            I don't think that's generally the case. At least if we talk about disciplines of science and engineering that have at least century-old history. The basics don't change all that much. In undergrad education in almost any subject, you could be using plenty of textbooks that are 50 years old, or more. For calculus you could use out-of-copyright stuff published in the late 1800s. Same for classical mechanics and mechanics of materials with exclusion of fracture IIRC. For chemistry, the basics are well covered

            • Sure a COBOL manual will not serve you well these days (well, beyond probably getting you a $200k/year job if you study it well). But stuff on algorithms, data structures, etc. will hold up and be of use even if quite old.

              You are right though that even these days knowing UNIX scripting is a powerful tool...

          • by mph_sd (564445) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:46AM (#36496362)

            Or maybe you could learn something about life by reading books that never go out of date?

            Read "The Old Man and the Sea" and learn how a man can persist at his work and life despite the hardships thrown at him?

            Read "The Great Gatsby" to gain some perspective on how yearning after wealth for its own sake is a futile pursuit?

            Read just about anything. Your definition of the word "learn" is far narrower than it ought to be.

            "The man who does not read is no better off than the man who cannot read."

        • by foniksonik (573572) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:04AM (#36496012) Homepage Journal

          I've read hundreds of books. I used to have boxes and boxes. Then I got tired of storing them, now I have hundreds of ebooks. A few gigs of data. I'm in my thirties. Books are just data. I'd rather just see MD5 hashes or something better to verify the data. Paper can be corrupted like anything else.

          • by webdog314 (960286)

            Sure, paper can be corrupted, but how many of your ebooks are going to still be readable in 100 years? 50 years? 10 years? I have paper books on my shelf that are 50+ years old and look nearly new. I also have thousands of ebooks stored on CD's that are now in a a format that is completely useless without hours and hours of conversion (if it can even be done any more). In another 50 years, my paper books will probably have yellowed a bit, but will still be going strong. My ebooks on the other hand will almo

      • by Anonymous Cowar (1608865) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:27PM (#36495688)
        Show me any under-20 something with an extensive book collection from any time period and I'll show you the exception to the rule.
        • by yarnosh (2055818)
          But is this new? Go back 100 years. How many under-20 people had their own book collections?
          • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:23AM (#36496174)

            But is this new? Go back 100 years. How many under-20 people had their own book collections?

            If you're looking at the population as a whole, probably less. Books were quite expensive one hundred years ago and is was fashionable to write in only the most dense prose which required quite an education to understand. But if you just looked at the literate -- then I would say many more. Today, more people can read and write but far less of those people actually read books. And the standard is so low. How many 'literate' people who have H.S. diplomas can read A Tale of Two Cities and actually get through it, let alone understand it?

            My grandmother didn't have an opportunity to go to college but many of my classics I inherited from her. She grew up during the Prohibition era so that's almost 100 years. It seems to me that with that generation one was either wholly ignorant or quite well educated. It took much more to simply graduate high school, but it meant more back then.

            Basically, what I'm saying is that 100 years ago a child from an affluent family probably had an extensive book collection. A child from a poor family probably didn't have a single book and probably couldn't read. But children from affluent families today rarely have extensive book collections despite having the means and the education necessary. They have video games and computers. But most kids have at least one or two books laying around. Perhaps something they received as a present or some required reading for school.

            There was a time when being upper-middle or upper class meant that one was educated. One couldn't get along socially or economically without it. For instance, here's a situation I'm sure some of you can relate with: You criticize a rich athlete/businessman/celebrity/politician for some decision or for saying something dumb and someone retorts with, "But they're rich." There was a time when the upper classes staunchly believed that money doesn't buy class. Today, money and class are considered one in the same.

            • by grcumb (781340)

              Books were quite expensive one hundred years ago and is was fashionable to write in only the most dense prose which required quite an education to understand.

              Er, no [wikimedia.org].

        • I think it's worth noting that being a bookworm later in life doesn't mean you were always one. I had maybe half a dozen books when I was in high school, not counting the middle grade books I still had on my shelf from back when I did Pizza Hut's Book It program (which I note is still going on [bookitprogram.com]!). And even then it was only because, when I was a sophomore in high school, my brother had brought home a book about black holes [amazon.com] that just blew my mind. After I realized the similar books said mostly the same thin

      • HI.

        I am an American male, and I turned twenty on the twenty-sixth of May.

        My personal book collection is a bunch of Weber, Laumer, and Harrison books, along with some miscaleneous science fiction. I have borrowed (and read!) the entire Foundation series from my high-school library. I've got the entire original Hardy Boy series and I've read every single one. I have almost all of Brian Jacques Redwall series as well. I've got a stack of D&D 3.5 sourcebooks and extras that I never use because I can't find

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Now, show me someone twenty or under with an extensive paper book collection. People will stop buying paper books and people with paper book collections will die eventually.

        Considering that most of them can't read beyond a 3rd grade level that's a bit unfair...

        • Now, show me someone twenty or under with an extensive paper book collection. People will stop buying paper books and people with paper book collections will die eventually.

          Considering that most of them can't read beyond a 3rd grade level that's a bit unfair...

          I really wish I could laugh at this, but I, a 36 year old of average intelligence is astounded by the total dreck that my 20-something classmates hand in for college papers. Poor spelling, horrible grammar, inappropriate apostrophe use. Prose that smacks of illiteracy. Yet all of them seem to believe they are "brilliant geniuses" and "exceptional students."

          May Sauron help us all when these kids enter the workforce.

          • by IANAAC (692242)

            ... I, a 36 year old of average intelligence is astounded by the total dreck that my 20-something classmates hand in for college papers. Poor spelling, horrible grammar, inappropriate apostrophe use. Prose that smacks of illiteracy. Yet all of them seem to believe they are "brilliant geniuses" and "exceptional students."

            I'm willing to bet that if you were their age, you'd be handing in the same "dreck" that they hand in.

            I recently found a bunch of old college essay papers I'd written in my junior and senior years of college. I was appalled at my spelling and grammar. I, was a genius when I was 20, too.

    • Hiya.

      You missed the words "generation" and "century". I'll keep my hardbound library for another 20 years. Then the next generation of miscreats who gets it as an estate are the ones who will ditch it, maybe ebay.

      A century is a long time. However Print On Demand will be a household / mall thing by then so it could get complcated.

    • by yarnosh (2055818) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:26PM (#36495680)
      Sure, the people who have book collections NOW won't give them away after getting a Kindle, but what about your children or grandchildren who never have a need for a physical book collection to start with? If they can get everything they want digitally, why should they ever invest in a physical book? They *might* inherit your old collection, but they woudln't need it. At some point those books are going to end up in the trash because nobody can be bothered to store them. That's how they will become rare. Also, It isn't so much that existing books will disappear as the average person won't have them. They'll have to make a point of seeking them out, much like seeing a lion. Sure you can go to a zoo and see a lion if you want to, but most people won't see them in their day to day lives. At some point, bound books are going to be things we look at in museums. Though I thnk that'll be more than a "few" generations from now.
      • by WillKemp (1338605)

        They said that about vinyl records years ago, but there's still plenty of them being pressed - and there seems to be more and more each year.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:35PM (#36495754)
      Older books (as in pre-word processor) on Kindle (not singling out Amazon, I'm sure iBooks and other digital stores share the same problems) are flawed. I've read a bunch of reviews of older books and there are common complaints regarding frequent typos from OCR. I am far more comfortable purchasing things written in more recent times in a digital format. That said, I confess an act of defiance in that I will not purchase the digital version unless it costs less so I still occasionally purchase paper.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It is absurd. In a few generations technology will crash down probably. We can't sustain this rate of chip production forever, especially not with this idea that tech is disposable and meant to be thrown away before the year is out. In a few generations people will wise up and realize books made of paper are actually a good idea.

    • by Nursie (632944)

      And how many people (in the privileged west) haven't seen a lion?

      Maybe not in the wild, but come on, everyone's been to a zoo. Seeing a lion is not a rare event.

    • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:46AM (#36496806) Homepage Journal

      A few generations until seeing a paper book is as rare as seeing a lion?

      It's the massive surge in lion numbers that we should be worrying about.

  • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:09PM (#36495552)

    Just think. With the death of paper books and the move to only digital copies (most of which will be slathered in DRM) you can eliminate the concept of resale, ensure that old editions of books become unusable, and revise history on the fly. Region lockouts, EULAs, acitvations and time limits. Then they can layer even more restrictions on top and enforce them via more bad pro-corporation, anti-citizen laws.

    Sure seems like we're already on this road. All they need to do is require government licensing for access to a compiler...

    • by DogDude (805747)
      The government won't have to step in. People are stupid and short sighted enough to do it to themselves. It's already impossible to rent movies and buy music and in some instances, buy books in most places in the US.
      • by heypete (60671)

        It's already impossible to rent movies and buy music and in some instances, buy books in most places in the US.

        Last time I checked, the US Postal Service still delivers to every address in the US. Netflix, among others, delivers movies (on DVD or Blu-Ray) by mail.

        Amazon, while offering 256kbps DRM-free MP3 downloads, also still sells music CDs and books. There are plenty of examples of other such vendors.

        It may come to pass that there isn't a general market brick-and-mortar shop for books or music in some areas, particularly smaller towns, but what's wrong with ordering things for delivery?

        • by DogDude (805747)
          What's wrong with it?

          If I want to rent a movie tonight, I can't. Impossible. No video rental stores because everybody used Netflix. If I want to get opinions of people who work in the video store or my neighbors, I can't. Oh yeah, and all of that money leaves my community, too.

          MP3 downloads aren't the same as a CD Audio CD. Not even close if you have an actual stereo system. Oh yeah, and all of that money leaves my community, too.

          Browsing book stores is impossible since there often aren't any.
    • Of course, everyone was making the same predictions about downloadable music not so long ago.

      Give it a few years; once tablets are as ubiquitous as iPods, companies have been pummeled with lawsuits after shutting down eBook DRM servers, and a major retailer is threatening to take over the entire market, publishers will start marketing "eBooks Plus" or somesuch.

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      Just think. With the death of paper books and the move to only digital copies (most of which will be slathered in DRM) you can eliminate the concept of resale, ensure that old editions of books become unusable, and revise history on the fly. Region lockouts, EULAs, acitvations and time limits.

      Of course that would be ignoring the fact that the same thing has happened with music and the largest distributors - Amazon and iTunes - provide most of it DRM-free.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Music, and music only. Video and ebooks however continue to be wrapped in layers of DRM and little forward motion to push DRM out of those fields seems to be underway.

    • The Right to Read (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:38PM (#36495788) Homepage

      This.

      Richard Stallman's famous parable about the Right to Read, and what will happen if intellectual monopoly laws continue to grow:

      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      Repeat after me: there must be a free (as in speech) books movement. There must be a free (as in speech) books movement...

    • by arcite (661011) on Monday June 20, 2011 @03:18AM (#36497206)
      Authors can publish themselves! Cut out the middle man! It's already happening. Indeed, pirating of books is rampant, I myself have the top 1000 sci-fi books in digital format from a torrent, only took a few minutes to download. The future is here.
  • Good thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jra (5600) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:10PM (#36495562)

    Since after the EMP bombs all go off, no one's eReaders are gonna be working all that well anymore.

    Doesn't *anyone* read science fiction anymore?

    You people just aren't *near* paranoid enough.

    • by zill (1690130)

      After the EMP bombs all go off, people will be searching for water, food, shelter, and weapons. They won't be searching for chunks of dead trees.

      • After the EMP bombs all go off, people will be searching for water, food, shelter, and weapons. They won't be searching for chunks of dead trees.

        Nonsense. In the winter it gets cold around here - lots of paper could be handy.

      • Re:Good thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:24PM (#36495664)

        I know I'd be really glad for my chunks of dead trees that have information about what plants are safe to eat, which ones are good for medicine, and so forth.

        Granted, there will be an immediate scramble for survival, and I have no illusions that I'm in a good position to survive that, but in the long term there are lots of books that would be damn nice to have if you're lucky enough to survive.

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      /me looks at eReader.

      My nearest eReader is five feet away from any connected power cord, which is the primary means of propagation for EMP, right?

      At 64GB, that's... at least 40K books in graphical format, more if it were text or other highly compressible format, or such?

      Whereas, the nearest university library (exactly 2.5 blocks away) is just chuck-full of stuff that's going to go boom during an EMP event in the US, and then catch fire... I'm betting on my eReader.

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:17PM (#36495600)
    I guess its our doom to be treated to an annual "end of books" prediction, alongside "the year of linux on the desktop", "the year desktops go away and everyone gets an ipad", "the year ipads go away and everyone gets a specific e-device for every task they used desktops for in ancient times", etc. At least this prediction has the tact to place itself out "a few generations", alongside flying cars and the end of disease.
  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:19PM (#36495626)
    ...like the one that said we'd have jet packs, flying cars, and Linux on the desktop in the year 2000.

    Sorry, dude. Keep your prognostication within five, ten years, and you have a discussion on your hands. Stretch it out to the point where most people reading right now will be dead, and you're writing a bit of fluff that, by design, can't be refuted or argued with.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:22PM (#36495646) Homepage

    The slashdot summary says: "[...]within a few generations, seeing a actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion." And how do we know this? Because Kevin Kelly says so on his blog. What evidence does Kevin Kelly give that billions of people worldwide are going to throw all their paper books in a dumpster? None.

    Brester Kahle says: "A reason to preserve the physical book that has been digitized is that it is the authentic and original version that can be used as a reference in the future. If there is ever a controversy about the digital version, the original can be examined. A seed bank such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen as an authoritative and safe version of crops we are growing. Saving physical copies of digitized books might at least be seen in a similar light as an authoritative and safe copy that may be called upon in the future." This is not a great analogy. If you want to be able to grow a plant of a certain species, currently the only way to do it is to have a seed (or a cutting or something, but they don't tend to keep as well). But there are easier, more secure ways to verify that a book hasn't been altered. To verify that all the books in Project Gutenberg have been maintained in an unaltered state, all I need is a computer file listing a hash function computed on each of the books. This is cheap to carry out, and it's very secure. I can print the hash-function file on a piece of paper and hide it somewhere, and no hypothetical evil government can make the piece of paper go away if they don't know I have it. There is no single point of failure, because any number of people can store the hash function. Kahle's cache of paper books is a single point of failure. It can be destroyed in a fire or earthquake, in case of a revolution, etc.

    A better justification for maintaining caches of paper books is that in case civilization falls apart, they'll still be readable.

  • Funnily enough, Richmond is where the University of California keeps one of their archives of books [google.com]...
  • Modern books aren't designed to last hundreds of years. Within decades, most of that archive will begin deteriorating. The inks will fade. The pages will turn to dust.

    Where's the value in that?

    • by Zedrick (764028) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:58AM (#36496862)
      > Modern books aren't designed to last hundreds of years.

      Really? That's an interesting statement. Of course they're not "designed" to last for hundreds of years, but all new books I've bought the last 20 years or so seems to be of higher quality than the still-very-readable books I have from the 19th and 20th century, and I would expect my new books to last at least a few hundred years.
  • Damn! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:37PM (#36495778)

    we are in a special moment when paper books are plentiful and cheap [...] but within a few generations, seeing a actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion

    Ah, yes, I remember when lions were cheap and plentiful and virtually everyone saw at least a dozen of them on a daily basis. If only I had stocked up on lions back when I had the chance... :-(

  • by Bloodwine77 (913355) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @11:38PM (#36495792)

    When you buy a book you own it and can re-read it as many times as you want. You can let your friends and family borrow it to read, or can even give it to someone else as a gift.

    I hate to see books follow down the path that is being pushed for other media where you don't actually own a copy of the media but you simply rent or license it.

    If a paper book ends up on some ban list it doesn't get revoked. Who needs the firemen from Fahrenheit 451 when you can simple push a button and automatically remove a copy of an e-book off of all digital reader devices.

  • This prediction has many ramifications, one of the biggest is the end of physical libraries. The end of brick and mortar libraries would be a huge shift for the public that rely on the services they provide besides the books, internet access, research help, employment help, technology learning just to start.
  • Currently, dead trees are be used as a poor-man's (or, more accurately, 20th-century man's) cryptographic signature to the authenticity of electronic books. If it exists in paper, then it can be forensically examined to determine if it is a forgery (the first being the sniff test -- are the pages yellowed and does it smell moldy?). How long can this last? How long will it be until we have the TNG replicator of books that can produce an authentic-looking but slightly altered version of a book on demand?

  • Libraries? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Narcogen (666692) <narcogen&narcogen,com> on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:37AM (#36496292) Homepage

    What's the rationale here? That Amazon and Apple are going to buy and shutdown all the public libraries, including the Library of Congress? There's a fine line between being forward-thinking and being, well, nuts.

    • Re:Libraries? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SydShamino (547793) on Monday June 20, 2011 @02:02AM (#36496880)

      I think the public-good-costs-too-much tea partiers / fiscal conservatives will eventually shut down all the public libraries without Amazon or Apple's help.

      They'll say, "Why should taxpayers who never use the library pay for it? If you want to read a book go to the local Barnes and Noble; they have a reading section. If anything the 'public' library is hurting this private business." Then later when all the Barnes and Noble stores close, they'll just point out that "if we needed access to paper books, the free-market would have kept B&N open."

      And I think the Library of Congress falls into the "go to the zoo to see a lion" analogy for a physical book. Sure, they aren't going to close. But they no longer take a copy of every printed book. Their funding will be cut, too, and their outdated collections will simply become a research library. And it's not like important libraries have ever been accidentally burnt down [wikipedia.org].

  • Archiving by Law (Score:5, Informative)

    by MacroRodent (1478749) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:39AM (#36496316)
    In Finland, every publisher is required by law to submit a copy of every printed work published in the country (not just books, but newspapers and magazines as well) to the National Library and a few other university libraries (so the system has redundancy). This has been going on since 1829. I suppose many other countries have similar laws.
  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:43AM (#36496340)
    There is a false dichotomy: electronic books or paper books. Books with print are not utterly dependent on the existing paper printing infrastructure. It is absurd to assume that future manufacturing technology will not be able to turn out a physical version of a book on demand, most likely at a small price. It will be up to the user to decide if they want an ebook or a physical book.

    Heck, listeners are going back to vinyl recording right now. Not a huge amount, but it is one of the growing sectors in a shrinking market. And this is without an "on demand" production model.

    As I sit here I am wearing clothes with cotton fabrics. Synthetic fibers did not make cotton obsolete.

    I expect that there will always be the use of printed physical books, even if paper is not the physical substrate. Will it be the majority? Most likely not, but it will still be an important component.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:31AM (#36496710)

    I was with them all the way up to where the warehouse was in California. What? The most seismically unstable place in the U.S.? Richmond is right on the bay opposite SF, so if CA sinks substantially (or AGW really does raise sea levels fifteen feet) there go all the books! Why not store them in Yucca Mountain with low level radioactive materials to keep the bookworms and moths and fire out?

  • by TavisJohn (961472) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:47AM (#36496814) Homepage

    About Vinyl when the cassette & CD came out... However Vinyl is still rather popular.

    Many people insist on getting the Vinyl version of an album over the CD version.

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Monday June 20, 2011 @02:33AM (#36497010) Homepage

    Has the CD and digital distribution caused vinyl to die? Quite the opposite. The market for vinyls is small, but quite vibrant.

    I'm sure there will be a market for physical books because some people will simply like them. Digital printing will make it possible to make a physical copy of any book relatively cheaply.

    While I think that it makes a lot of sense to dump physical books I don't think they will disappear completely for quite a few more generations.

  • by StripedCow (776465) on Monday June 20, 2011 @03:23AM (#36497218)

    Will it also be the end of paginated layout?

  • by muckracer (1204794) on Monday June 20, 2011 @06:53AM (#36498108)

    Am new to this e-reader thing. Got a Sony PRS-650. So far so good.

    Question: Is it possible to push selected entire Slashdot discussions incl. all comments (-1) onto the thing and read it offline? If so how would I go about it?

    Idea is to select a few interesting stories before a long commute and read them/the discussions on the train...

    Advice appreciated!

  • by digitig (1056110) on Monday June 20, 2011 @07:10AM (#36498174)
    National libraries of record already keep copies of everything published. So, for instance, the Library of Congress, the British Library and the Bodleian Library keep copies of everything published in English. So we already have a triplicated, geographically diverse, and properly environmentally controlled system, which is going to preserve the books a lot longer than a shipping container on an industrial estate.

What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying. -- Nikita Khruschev

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