People have been proclaiming the death of the book (or
merely of the author or the reader) since the advent of
printing, with early laments for example that mass production
of text via the printing press would enfeeble the mind
and involve the loss of skills required for creation of
a 'book' - ie an illuminated manuscript.
In 1894 Scribner’s Magazine forecast the
imminent death of the printed book, supposedly about to
be immediately supplanted by audio recordings -
which Rivarol so judiciously called the artillery of
thought, and of which Luther said that it is the last
and best gift by which God advances the things of the
Gospel—printing, which has changed the destiny
of Europe, and which, especially during the last two
centuries, has governed opinion through the book, the
pamphlet, and the newspaper—printing, which since
1436 has reigned despotically over the mind of man,
is, in my opinion, threatened with death by the various
devices for registering sound which have lately been
invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection.
recently there have been recurrent pronouncements that
the book (whether as text or as a physical artefact) will
shortly disappear ... indeed that its demise is a good
Sceptics may consider that such forecasts are as illfounded
as some of the visions by pundits highlighted here
and here ...
flying cars, the death of the state, universal brotherhood,
the end of mortality, 500 tv channels that are actually
worth watching ...
Realists have noted that the number of titles (and their
overall affordability) is increasing and asked whether
mechanisms such as Print On Demand (POD)
and Publish On Demand will facilitate access to the vast
backlist of titles. It is dangerous to confuse the demise
of the book with the pain suffered by some publishers.
Others have noted the durability of print formats, for
example Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Why Paper Is Eternal
questioning the enthusiasm in works such as The
Book is Dead (Long Live the Book) (Sydney: UNSW Press
2008) by Sherman Young for 'rescuing' text by migrating
it online and discarding "old-fashioned" hardcopy.