The Future of the Book

The near future

The first chapter of Jay David Bolter’s book, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print, points out that “today we are living in the late age of print” (Bolter, 2001, p. 2). Printed books are being displaced by webpages, emails, blogs and word processing. Bolter (2001) also states that tension between digital forms and print has changed the idea of the book. We have become more reliant on the World Wide Web and a variety of digital devices to access information. Furthermore, writers continue to enjoy the flexibility of writing and editing that word processors allow. Bolter (2012) sees the shift from one medium to another as a “remediation” of the previous technology. In addition, he believes that these new technologies may supplement or even replace established technologies (p. 22). If that is the case, could this new shift to digital writing forms lead to the end of the printed book, like the papyrus scroll that came before it? Raymond Kurzweil (1992) believes that printed books “will ultimately reach antiquity, but because of their enormous installed base, this transition will not be instantaneous” (All libraries great and small section, para. 2). Whether you are enthusiastic towards these new technologies, or a proponent of the printed book, it is still worthwhile to view the many ways these digital forms have remediated the printed book and why its future may be questioned.

In this late age of print, many are turning to tablets and e-readers to read electronic books. They provide many of the conveniences of a printed book. They are portable and easy to read. You can bookmark and turn pages with relative ease. However, like all new technologies, its purpose is to remediate existing technology, which in this case is the printed book. With e-readers and tablets, a new e-book can be downloaded to your device in seconds, from such sites as kobo, Kindle or iBook. The font can be changed or increased to make reading simpler and more enjoyable. In addition, e-readers and tablets are capable of storing multiple e-books, allowing them to be transported much easier than a load of hard covered books. Students are beginning to read e-books and use the web to gather information on their digital devices. These digital devices are gradually making their way into classrooms, as we focus on the necessary skills for the 21st Century Learner.

Apple Inc. is one company hoping to capitalize on this new educational philosophy, by creating textbooks for the iPad or iPhone. Apple’s website highlights the fact that paper textbooks are not only expensive, but are “outdated almost before they are published” (“Apple in education”, 2012). With these new electronic textbooks, students will be notified when there are updates and they will be able to download them directly from their website. No longer will there be piles of outdated textbooks found in classrooms. Apple also points out that carrying heavy textbooks puts a strain on student’s backs, affecting their posture (“Apple in education”, 2012). After viewing one of these textbooks, it can readily be seen why they grab the attention of today’s reader. They contain a variety of 3D images and videos, are highly interactive, have note-taking and highlighting capabilities, as well as the ability to create study cards. These new textbooks created by many publishers for the iPad are another example of the remediation of the paper textbook.

The debate over the future of the book continue to be a topic of interest to many. There are a large selection of articles and blogs on the World Wide Web dealing with the uncertainty of the printed book’s future. There are critics that say the book will never disappear and there are enthusiasts that argue that it has no choice but to be replaced due to the increase in tablets and e-readers. Tan (2011) feels that in spite of these new technologies making reading more convenient and easier, there are still those that “cherish” the experience of reading an actual printed book. He also points out that there will always be a digital divide and until there is 100% access to technology, there will be a place for printed books. Barrett (2010) sees the book in the future as having a niche in society, but that it will be much smaller and be aimed more for collectors. Finally, Bodnick (2012) views the ease of tablets and e-readers as causing the fading a way of bookstores and libraries, as people continue to purchase electronic books. The future of the book is unclear and no one seems to know when or if it will become extinct. However, Bolter (2001) points out that deciding its future is not necessary. What is necessary is to examine the relationship between print and digital media in order to understand, “why the future of the printed book seems so uncertain and the future of digital media so bright” (Bolter, p. 7).


Apple in education. (2012). Retrieved from

Barrett, M. (2010, August 23). Why print publishing will never die. Retrieved from

Bodnick, M. (2012, October 2). Will public libraries become extinct?. Retrieved from

Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Kurzweil, R. (1992, March). The future of libraries, part 3: The virtual library. Retrieved from

Tan, F. (2011, April 22). Why books will probably never die. Retrieved from

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