Friday Fun: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction

Oct 15 2010 Published by under ebooks, education, friday fun

A really interesting article on from this past August by Ryan Britt, A Fondness for Antiques: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction.

In the past few years, media pundits and tech experts have been abuzz with variations on the question: "what is the future of the book?" Luckily, science fiction has been around a whole lot longer than Amazon, Apple, and Google, and as such, might be able to teach us a thing or two about the future of the printed word.

It's a really terrific look at some futurism from the past -- the old "Where's my rocket pack and flying car!" but this time applied to the world of books. Normally, this is the kind of topic I'd address in a serious post rather than a Friday Fun, but really, reading the article I don't see that I have too much to add to the points and that Britt makes.

One point that seems particularly relevant comes from my favourite Star Trek movie:

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock famously gives Kirk A Tale of Two Cities as a birthday gift. "I know of your fondness for antiques," Spock says, heavily implying printed books are like big collector's items in the 23rd century. Prior to this, the 60s Trek crew primarily accessed literature on multi-colored Heinlein-esque record tapes. It is from one of these, that Gary Mitchell quotes "Nightingale Woman," a poem written by an alien, implying poetry is being read and "published" in some form or another in the future and on various planets. This idea of a highly literate future is bolstered by the fact that everyone from Kirk to Doctor Crusher seems to know their Shakespeare.

I actually find that quote to be really inspirational. The future of the book isn't about nostalgia or pining for a lost utopia. At the same time, it's not about disrespecting the past or ignoring the traditions and technologies that have gotten us to where we are today. It's about moving forward, finding what works for real people in a real future.

BTW, in checking out the article you'll see that science fiction has more of less anticipated everything that's going on today from the iPad to Wikipedia!

3 responses so far

  • Coturnix says:

    No Rainbows End, no Final Encyclopedia? They are, for me, the two futures of the book in SF.

  • guthrie says:

    Wahey, someone else who has read the final encyclopaedia!

    Whenever people talk about how the internet has lots of information I tell them about it. It also helps you avoid future shock.

  • psikeyhackr says:

    The problem with Google is the growing redundancy. I did a search with Alta Vista in 1999 and got ZERO hits. Now that same search gives 6,300 results on Google. But how many would contain some specific datum that I want? Can I narrow the search enough?

    More and more people with more and more computers are producing more and more and more and more WORDS. We search on words but the same words arranged differently with other words result in different ideas. The search engines don't search on ideas. Maybe IBM's Jeopardy winning software will help with that but our problem is eliminating redundant information. We are producing more and more rather than new.

    The paper books are obsolete.

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