Aired: February 12, 2011

The Future of the Book

Some say that books – that is, the printed, non-digital variety – are destined for the trash heap.  Call it the Age of the KindleRalph Cohen (James Madison University) spent a lifetime collecting books, many of them very rare.  But recently, after 70 years book collecting, he decided to give away thousands of them.  Did he do it because he believes books are dead?  Also featured: the story of how a rare and valuable dictionary of Old English mysteriously wound up in a college library in the Shenandoah Valley.  Dabney Bankert (James Madison University) discovered this literary gem and spent a decade reconstructing its strange, winding journey.  And also featured: while printed books may be on the decline, audio books are still as popular as ever.  The billion-dollar-a-year industry is the merger of traditional and technological cultures.  Lucy Bednar (James Madison University) says the narrator serves a vital role.  They can make or break the experience – and she shares examples of each.


2 Comments on “The Future of the Book”

  1. Joe Vega

    What is the future of book publishing and collecting? None of us can say for sure. I think less print media will be published as time goes on, and print on demand will be the norm in very cheap formant I fear. But you know, even that print on demand copies will probably be collectible.
    The more important issue, I fear, is the inherent danger in putting a technology between ‘man’ and ‘knowledge’. In the past, all a person had to do was take a book off a shelf and start reading it. There was nothing between the man and the printed page. You could happen upon books in the street, in others homes, in offices, wherever. In the future books will be hidden on disk drives, memory sticks, and memory cards. Not readily accessible. Not at an arm’s reach. We’ve put a reader, a computer, a phone, technology, between us and the printed page. If there is no power, you can’t read. If your reader breaks, you can’t read. If you cannot afford a reader or those downloaded books, you can’t read. That book won’t be sitting there on a shelf with the spines facing us with their titles; attracting us, interesting us. They will be on an electronic chip. Hidden and I fear even worse, unnoticed.

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