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I quite enjoyed this article on e-readers in Publisher’s Weekly, and by enjoyed I mean I had a good chuckle at its stupid assertions. The publishing industry is, of course, still full of laughable people who sail boldly into the future secure in their knowledge that e-readers are just a fad that will die off, and that good old-fashioned paper books will continue to be read forever.

It’s easy to see why these kinds of people are involved in publishing rather than actually writing. They have a lack of imagination. They cannot look at our society, observe the progress of technology over the last half century, and use that data to make a reasonable prediction of trends over the next half century. Does anyone seriously believe that most of the developed world will still be reading physical books and newspapers in 2050? Compare 1950 with 2000. Compare the way we lived, worked and played, and note the vast technological differences – in computing, in entertainment, in communications, in virtually every aspect of our lives. It does not take a clairvoyant to figure out that 2050 will likewise be a very different place from 2000, or 2011.

I don’t read e-books, and I dearly love printed books. I like the smell and the presence of them. I like books as objects, not just as a means to an end. I like a room better with a few overflowing bookshelves in it. And I have no doubt that there will remain a market for printed books, even five hundred years in the future when we’re all living in dome cities on Mars, and there are just a couple of specialist antiquarian stores on the planet. None of that means I can’t tell which way the wind is blowing, and the publishing industry figures who are clucking their tongues and stroking their beards and just generally failing to learn from the mistakes of the music industry remind me of the same people who deny global warming based largely on their own love of the status quo rather than any actual evidence.

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April 2011