Tech Mogul Predicts Physical Books will Disappear in Five Years

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carnivorousslushee23

Nothing beats a paper copy of a book.  I for one will never buy an ebook simply because I like reading from paper so much more.  I've tried using e-readers, and it's just not the same experience; I don't get "in the zone", as I call it.  When I read a book, especially a fat hardcover by David Weber or Robert Jordan, I can go on reading for hours and hours - I sometimes finish the entire book in a day if I don't have work or school.  With e-readers, I'm always noticing that I'm pushing buttons or swiping a screen to go to the next page, and that dampens the immersion for me, because I can't zone out and become totally focused on the book.  There's also nothing quite like picking up The History of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes and just flipping through all those pages.

I also get a huge amount of personal satisfaction from amassing a large collection of books in my room (I'm 18, and I already have two bookcases filled floor to ceiling with my books.  And I'm not going to stop buying books anytime soon).  I love being able to walk into my room, look through the neat rows, and choose a book I haven't read in a while from the shelf.  E-readers just aren't the same - you have nothing to show for your collection except a small handheld device with the number of megabytes used up.  Not nearly so satisfying as having an entire room filled with books (that's the best feeling for me).  The portability factor is nice, sure, but the lack of physical pages beneath my fingertips is a major turnoff for me.  Besides, I'm the kind of person who a) reads books that average around 900 pages and b) tends to not read two books at one time while I'm on the go.  If I'm in the middle of both the Honor Harrington series and the Wheel of Time, then I'm not going to want to take both with me; each one is lengthy enough to occupy me for some time.

On a more random note, my best friend has this hobby of pulling books off of her bookshelves and just smelling the pages.  Might seem weird, but I definitely know where she's coming from; I do it too, and some books, especially older ones, have the nicest odor about them.

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JohnP

 this is called an addiction. It can be helped with meds and couseling.

<walks into house with barely enough room to go from room to room. All the rest of the space is filled with old musty books picked out of dumpsters over the years>, His grandson "It is going to take a crane to clean out this house of Grandpa's! I didn't even know there were still this number of books left in the whole world!"

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thetechchild

It's not an addiction to just like books. For the record, many people have a bookshelf or two in their house filled with good books. (classics, modern sci-fi/fantasy, whatever) Many people also read for enjoyment, whether or not you're aware of that. Believe it or not, even, some people can read 1000 pgs/day on weekends when they don't have to go to work/school.

Some people are literate and enjoy it. People like you are people who simply don't appreciate literature or academia. Which, honestly, sucks, since MPC is not exactly a place for the average popular teenager who can't read 20 pages without quitting to watch TV or can't pass Algebra 2 before high school graduation. GTFO if what you have to contribute is insulting somebody's love for reading.

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JohnP

  Owning books and "being literate" are not mutually inclusive. I have two college degrees, worked for HP for 25 years, and have read countless thousands of books.  I currently have 19 books ( mostly non-fiction- fiction is for the E-Reader) out from the library at home right now (retired so I get to read a lot). I probably have 3-400 hundred books at home, all of them read to some degree.

   My son is at college, smart as hell, owns dozens of books, all of them leftover college texts, but does not read much for pleasure. Literate? Hell yes, straight 1600 on SATS ( I only got 696 on reading and 726 on math- 40 years ago). He has only a dozen books he owns that he has read for pleasure.

  Think of the the old English drawing room with its countless thousands of bound volumes with the same red leather covers filling dozens of shelves, doubtless most  never been read.

  My dad read boxes and boxes of westerns over and over. He READ a lot but was he literate? Not really- I never saw him read a non fiction book for instance. Only made it through 10th grade.

Anything done to excess can be an addiction- READING too much can be an addiction. Owning hundreds of books FOR THE SAKE OF OWNING a book can get unhealthy.

 Books are nothing more than a media, passing one person's thoughts, emotions, and ideas to another person. It's the STUFF INSIDE that is important, not the book itself- paper, thread, and glue.

Granted, the book has revolutionized the world by recording and teaching for over a thousand years. But to get hung up on the paper itself? Well, that is just unusual, especially for an 18 year old. I guess he may be using books for the snob appeal (LOOK AT ME! I OWN ALL THESE BOOKS!). Otherwise, I cannot think of a good reason to hump hundreds of pounds of books around with you all of your life.

 

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carnivorousslushee23

I don't own books for the snob appeal, Gramps.  I own a lot of books because, as I previously stated in my comment, I enjoy them.  I like books.  I don't own books for the sake of owning books, I own books for the sake of having physical copies that I'm simply more comfortable with reading than a frigging e-reader.  I pay money for books because I like having a medium full of pages that doesn't need to be recharged or kept away from water.  You're in love with e-readers?  That's great.  But I'm not.  I just come from a more traditional viewpoint, I guess.  I simply find that reading a physical book is a more enjoyable experience than reading an e-reader because of personal taste.  I grew up reading books.  I am not comfortable with e-readers, and their "advantages" over books do not appeal to me.  As for the page-smelling thing - really?  It isn't a personal hobby of mine, she's a friend of mine, and she has a penchant for little eccentricities like that.  It's a part of her personality that I find very appealing.  I do think that books sometimes have a nice smell; what's wrong with that?

I also would like to point out that I don't own solely fiction.  I am a big fan of Heroditus, Roman military history, and the Achaemenids.  I enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction.  I read books as much for enjoyment as for education.  I also mix things up a bit - I play Bad Company 2 like a madman on weekends.  I go outside regularly - hanging out at the metro park is one of my other favorite activities.  I also go to the movies.  Spare me your snobbery, sir.  There is value in your criticism (too much reading can be a bad thing, sure, if it deprives you of sleep or sustenance), but when you persist in calling me an addict simply because I enjoy a physical medium more than a modern digital one, you have a problem of your own.

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JohnP

 Yeah, I did go overboard here. I apologize. I never have understood how people can get attached to things, I have the sedimentality of a brick. Paying big bucks for the shoes that Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz just floors me (They are just RED SHOES dammit!). I also hate clutter and had to put up with books laying about all my life (the same with magazines). I still own them but am less tolerate than I used to be-<sweeps the pile of magazines off the kitchen table to put down a plate of food>

  I guess it is the thought of moderation of all things.

 And don't knock the draw that books have on the opposite sex. One of the first things most of my dates did was to check out what kind of books I had on my shelves. Heh.

I has taken me several years to come to the realization that when I walk into a book store or library that I am actually walking into a book museum. They just don't know it yet.

Gramps. I love it! I am also grumpy. Goes with the age, I guess.

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carnivorousslushee23

No problem, and apology accepted.  You speak of Dorothy's red shoes, which made me laugh, because it reminds me of the whole thing about stamp collecting.  Here you have tiny 1" by 1" pieces of colored paper that sell for hundreds of thousands, or even millions.  I don't really understand it, but I guess it has to do with a) the rarity of the item (there were only five pairs of the shoes made, and one was stolen) and b) the cultural impact - that movie is a venerable piece of history now, which really means anything from it has more value than an equivalent object from, say, the Harry Potter series.  Antiquity is a funny thing - you can bury a simple coin in the ground, dig it up a hundred years later, and make thousands off of it.

As for the opposite sex thing, my aforementioned best friend is really the only girl, bar one or two others, I've met who actually appreciate books and reading for what they are - every other female I've met is part of the "texter teen" generation, as I term it.  Which is one of the reasons I am so often disgruntled by the females of my generation, because they act so ridiculously (from my perspective, anyway) - the whole focus on fashion and all that superficial twaddle.  Most are immediately turned off by my collections of books because that automatically makes me "the nerd who reads a lot".  Which I'm fine with - I'd rather hang with my book-loving friend than a texter.  Heh...maybe that is a bit snobbish of me.

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majorsuave

"When we ship with our laptop books to a village, we put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops in ... That village now has 10,000 books. This is an African village without electricity. So that's the future."

 

When you ship laptops to people without electricity, what becomes of the laptops the next day, when the batteries are depleted? And how can this be the future?

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steevonson

The computers that One Laptop Per Child uses are recharged with a hand powered generator that is provided to the child with the computer.

The laptops are pretty cool. You can even buy one for yourself so long as you purchase one for a child as well.

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carnivorousslushee23

I wondered the exact same thing.  Either he had a slip of the tongue, or he's an idiot.  Due to his statement about the death of the physical book, I'm inclined to think the latter, but that's just me.

I see this statement as being similar to the whole issue of "PC gaming is dead".  Developers say that all the time, and yet we just found that Steam now has 30 million active accounts, and World of Warcraft has topped 12 million active subscribers.  These people are simply promoting their products - and in Mr. Negroponte's case, he's not doing a very good job of it.  And besides, not everyone lives in Africa without electricity.  It's a special case.

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Ghok

Seems like books are good in some circumstances, and e-readers are good in some others. E-readers will become more popular, but they'll never replace books.

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TechW

When the publishers / authors realize that they must follow the model the music industry finally went with, we may see widespread use of eBook readers. That is, free of DRM so I can backup my books and read them on any reader. And, at a lower cost than the physical media. When it comes out in hard back, it should be on eBook cheaper than hard back. When it comes out on mass market paperback, it should be cheaper than that as well. They can even stick to the same rollout model they have now. They might even try a Blue-Ray trick and create a special edition eBook that people would pay more for because of extras.

Anyway, traditional books are here for as least another generation. Minimum.

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peteyj222

i think e-readers are a neat idea.  you can store countless books in something thats smaller than a just one of those books.  however real physical books will never die out.  there is something special about the smell, the weight of it, the feel of turning the next page.  they have been around for ceturies since the printing press and before then, handwritten by monks.  you cant decorate your office with an e-reader.  its been said that books have souls, why do you think its such an abhorant act to burn a book.  All these prediction makers can say what they like but they only see sales figures and want everyone wired into the web 24/7.  e-readers are cold plastic things, books however are made of living things, the paper and leather and whateverelse.  books will never die.  at least i hope not.

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Keith E. Whisman

The problems is that they don't have a device that is as kid proof as a paper based book. I can sit on my leather bound copy of Moby Dick. If I sit on my kindle it's dead. I can use my paperback as a door stop. My kindle will break as a door stop. I can drop my paper books from 20 feet in the air and nothing bad will happen unless it lands on me. My kindle will end up in many pieces if dropped from even just a few feet. I don't think this Mogul knows what he is talking about. I think that he has a product and wants to sell that product and therefore makes outrageous claims such as these. 

Remember all the Y2K Disaster survival companies that popped up the last two years before 2000? Remember the insane claims and the fear mongering? This is just an attempt to build a stronger market for bigger profits. Not that I have anything against profit. 

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Jox

From my cold, dead hand.

-Jox

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dirumetal1986

I see both sides but when my electricity was out for a week, literally, I would have gone insane without my books. E readers are great because of their storage capacity and small size/weight, but when the battery goes out they're paperweights.

Also, nothing quite beats a hardcover, especially leather-bound, book. I'm not old either, I'm 24.

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fellowleo

It maybe possible but unlikely to be rid of physical books in the US, but that is not going to happen in Africa. As with any high technological device, it needs the infrastructure to support it or it will very quickly fall into disrepair.

You send a hundred laptops to an African village. Who are going to take care of these laptops? How log before they get damaged physically? With cracked screens, failing drives, batteries that won't hold a charge. Unless you send them new laptops every 3 years along with the tech support to maintain them, these laptops will soon be useless to them. Just see the mountain of old junked laptops that we have sitting around in this country.

The concept of the book has survived for thousands of years. There is a reason for this. Don't think your faith in technology can over come this.

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JohnP

 I was an early adopter of the SONY 505 e-book reader (now have the SONY 650- LOVE it). I have read hundreds of books on it. Many were books that I HAD ON A SHELF in the house! Once I realized this, I recycled over 200 books, clearing off an entire bookcase for paperbacks. Half of my hardcovers are gone too, some over 30 years old. Ragged, dog eared, dusty, smelly books that I have toted around since the 1970s.

 What is left? Most large, picture hardcovers that don't work well on a monchomatic 6 inch screen. Give me a tablet with a sheet of paper sized color screen and I will happily get rid of the rest.

 I am not exaggerating here. I really have started to love the pristine look of a book with the right sized type for my older eyes on the e-book reader. It's light, it's portable, an entire library fits on a DVD. What's not to like?

 As for the price, look to the music industry to see how the book industry will go. Eventually, DRM free, inexpensive books will appear. As for now, the torrent sites have 10's of thousands of e-books that just have to be converted into the format for your reader. Easily done.

  It's no longer if, it is only a matter of when. Books will be the vinyl records, the old radios, beeenie babies- antique collector items not used much in general circulation.

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da_samman

Come ON MaximumPC.com, get after these stupid comment spammers.  This article could well be an outstanding topic for debate commentary, but some stupid wanker decided to spam the comments already.  PLEASE, Maximumpc.com, DO SOMETHING Aabout these spammers.

V/R,

SGT Samuel Eugene McClard II

 

P.S.  DEATH TO SPAMMERS!!

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johnny3144

1 question, how do you resale digital textbook after use? i buy roughly 800 dollar worth of textbook every year, and then sell them for 70%+ of it's value(assume i bought new ones, if i bought used i can basically use the book for free). how do you do that for e-book?

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Peanut Fox

Maybe text book makers could opt for a subscription service.  You pay for the use of the book for a semester or year.  During that time if they update the information in the book, you have access to that information.  Then when you no longer wish to rent the book, you just don't renew the sub.  

I have to ask, are these things just a price grab or are they really that expensive to update? 

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JohnP

You find DRM free copies of the textbooks, just like music... All someone has to do is scan the book and OCR it.

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Doldarius

You know the problem with all the people talking about e-books.  I have never once heard the topic include this thing we have called Libraries.  My mom reads around 60-90 books every year.  How many of those does she buy?  At the most 5.  The rest all come from the library.  So now that we're considering library book rentals, how long will it take for e-books to permeate society?

Then there is the whole no electricity in africa where they think they can replace laptops with books...

Then you have issues with 100 books per computer, well what if everyone wants one of those 100 and none of the otehr 9900 books.  So it's a library of "10,000" books but only 100 people can read any books, and then they can only select from the 100 books available on that machine.  Sounds like the worst thought out plan I have heard in my entire life.

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JohnP

 The libraries in CT are already allowing downloads for two week loans of hundreds of e-books. I too use the library extensively and the e-book selection and availability are very poor at the moment. But given enough push by the public, and the libraries WILL change. For instance, our library loans over 300,000 DVDs per year, only average to the other libraries in the state. This is triple what it was just 2 years ago.

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Biceps

I read a LOT.  Like somewhere between 800-1000 pages a week.  I love love love reading. I have a nice gaming desktop, a laptop, a PSP, an MP3 player... and so on.  Know what I don't have? You guessed it!  I don't have an eReader.

I buy a new or used book (usually new, much to my wallet's chagrin) at least once a week. I will continue to.  eReaders are probably great for convenience, but you can't take one camping, you can't read it after it has been rained on, and a first edition of an eReader will go down in price, while the physical copy gains value.

Mr. Negroponte, I can't wait to hear your prediction on when I'm getting my flying car.

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JohnP

 You have not TRIED an E-reader! I too read voraciously. Most of my books come from libraries, but all my favorites that I reread are on the e-book reader now.

 As for camping in the rain, Have you EVER tried to read a soaking wet book? Heh, I even had to try to read a FROZEN book on a winter camping trip. Had to hold it over a boiling pot of water to steam it open.

 As for "increasing in value", books are a TERRIBLE investment. Look at any bookstore at the prices of discounted books. Or go to the library and look at the huge pile of free or $1.00 books, hundreds of them. that is an investment?

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someuid

I don't know about paper books going away anytime soon, but I do know this:

Shakers, movers, rich people, visionaries, and everyone else will continue to make grand, news-making, oh-my-gosh-they're-so-smart futuristic predictions and they will continue to be wrong.

For how many years did Bill Gates say the command line is dead?  And then Microsoft releases PowerShell.

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JohnP

Oops, failed the Baloney Detection Kit. Negative evidence does not prove a statement (Bill gates gave wrong statement). Only POSTIVE evidence does (the number of people using windows GUI today vs the number of people still using command line interfaces).

http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/

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mrvander

Just because he doesn't know how to support his statement doesn't make his argument invalid. You are in fact using an irrelevant conclusion instead of addressing the topic directly.

His point remains valid that there will be predictions that are impossible to quantify and statistically overwhelmingly wrong. Your own diversionary argument actually supports his statement.

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TheOnlyCanuck

"When we ship with our laptop books to a village, we put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops in ... That village now has 10,000 books. This is an African village without electricity. So that's the future."

So, let me get this straight.. the future is 10,000 books on laptops in an African village without electricity.  Maybe Negroponte could explain to me how this village will read all 10,000 books when the 8 hours of battery life in each of the 100 computers dies without electricity? 

Now what can we give these poor electrically-challenged Africans to read?... hmmmn..

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d3v

The OLPC laptops have a lever that allows you to recharge the battery using clockwork motion. That is you turn the lever over and over again until the battery gets charged.

I don't think printed books will ever go extinct. It will take at least a 100 years for them to become rarities.

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winmaster

I want one of those on my laptop.

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JohnP

 There are a billion books out there. No way will they all disappear. What will go extinct is BUYING a paper book except for a select few. There will always be books, just as there will always be vinyl records. There is also the collectors side of the book collections, like any other antique. That's is what is going to happen to books, they will become antiques.

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Flipichino

Every student needs to buy their own 'new' book and can't get a 'used' one?  You know the college textbook publishers are more than happy to oblige!

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nduanetesh

Mr. Negroponte is clearly an idiot.  Paper books being gone in five years?  That's completely ridiculous, and I have no idea how he can even seriously say such a thing.  Ebooks certainly have their merits--they are inexpensive and will get cheaper, they take up very little physical space (only as much as your reader), you can purchase them no matter where you are, etc. But people love physical books and they always will.  Physical books require no electricity or device to read them, they're more rugged than ereaders and the risk of catastrophic loss is less (breaking your ereader is way more likely than your house burning down).

 

That being said, everybody who's saying that ebooks will be gone in five years are also being ridiculous. Ebooks have a huge convenience factor that cannot be denied--and making things more convenient for people is one of the best ways to get them to buy something.

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devastator_2000

If they want to sell me on ebooks, then they need to make them much cheaper.  There is a new Star-Trek book that I want, I went to Amazon to see about getting the ebook version to read on my PC.  It was $7.99!?!?  WTF???  That is the same price as a paperback, and yes this book is paperback only, so why would I get the ebook version?  Just get the paperback version and I know I can take it anywhere.

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Atomike

Paper books will always outsell digital books. The reason? Digital books are stupid. It's a fad. That's it. 1,000 years from now, paper books will still be the norm. Because theyr'e better by every metric one could imagine.

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nduanetesh

"better by every metric one could imagine"?  How 'bout storage space?  I was just thinking the other day that I have five huge bookcases filled with books, and all of them would easily fit on a single ereader the size of a paperback.  It would be like I got a whole new room in my house, because it wouldn't be filled with books anymore. 

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Atomike

I really, really hope you're joking.

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XNeonMan

Information that relies on electricity has a high potential for permanent loss. A global disaster would very likely cause a loss of power for all digital media. Printed books stored correctly are the most reliable means of preserving history in such a case. Seems so to me that the likelyhood of a meteor impact might be good reason to believe there could be a lack of even solar energy in the future. I love my laptop, but when the power is off and the battery runs out I'm glad I have my books.

 

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TommM

...yes, let's use an African village with no electricity as a basis to determine when printed books will no longer exist.

It will be a generational thing.  When kids use nothing but e-books in schools and grow up only knowing that, AND people who are used to and prefer printed books grow old and pass away - then books will disappear.  I'd say give it 20-30 years.  But don't imagine they will ever completely disappear.  Think there will always be a niche for printed materials - just like LP records have hung around.

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