And by books, I mean actual, real books. In your hand books. The Kindle, the iPad, the eReader, etc., all have real merit, but books will still be around, in some fashion. Certain mediums, such as newspapers and magazines, I can see becoming completely digital.Books, though, will stay paper, to an extent. Even comics, which I primarily read digitally, will be around in paper form. There is something about reading a story in your hands, putting it on the shelf, just having it, that will keep them around. I read Grant Morrison's Joe the Barbarian last week, on my laptop. Then I went to the comic shop, and bought the issue. When I read it, the exact same story I had read on my laptop, is was much better. There's something about having the story, seeing the art in your hands, that cannot be replicated on a screen. Maybe it's my collector mentality, but if I like something, I want it in my ahnd. I downlaod movies, but if I love a movie, I need a copy of it on my shelf. I can go to a website and read Dylan Thomas poetry, but I'd rather have the book in my hand, to go through the pages of his poetry. It just isn't the same on screen.
With that said, I think the Kindle and devices like it have merit. People don't read anymore, especially kids, and that's criminal. But publishing companies don't help themselves at all. A non-discounted book can run you anywhere from $15 to $50. Even a relatively cheap book, say Animal Farm, is $10(via amazon.com). While not expensive, most people wouldn't elect to spend $10 on a novel. Especially a kid. They'll go and buy a DVD, a video game, fast food, etc. Comics, a medium that should be aimed at getting young kids to read, is even worse. The averahge price for a Marvel/DC comic book is $2.99, and they have already begun the process of getting readers used to paying $3.99 for comics. Comics, generally, vary between 22 to 32 pages of content, including advertisements. There is a distinct lack of content to price, there.
This technology gives me hope, that we can get books into the hands of kids. Most schools already use laptops in the classroom, the next step is to go completely digital. Maybe not a full-fledged Kindle, but one streamlined for students, filled with required reading and/or novels for them to read. Comic publishers could drastically reduce their prices, since the cost of paper has been their excuse for raised prices. The comic book demographic has shifted in the last 20 years, from young kids/teenagers to men in their 30s & 40s, who grew up on comics and collect them. This is not sustainable at all. Get those comics in kid's hands at an early age, give them a love for the characters and reading, and you have a new batch of consumers for the next 20 years or so.
I doubt what I want will ever happen, but I'll stay cautiously optimistic. Either way, I'll keep buying my books, and putting them on my shelves.