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The Future of the Printed Book


R. Alan Woods

San Diego: Rhema Rising


W ith the technological innovations of the Personal Digital Computer and the Internet the future of

the printed book will most probably go the way of the earliest devices for carrying written and graphic

information, which were comprised of clay tablets (2500 B.C.- A.D.100), papyrus rolls (2000 B.C.- A.D.

700), and the codex (A.D. 150). The driving force behind the evolution of the “book” is the need to find and

disseminate information more rapidly. Although the codex is still with us, the one major change in it having

been the replacement of manual writing by machine printing, the introduction of computer-driven

photocomposition and the emergence of the electronic book (A.D. 2000) at the end of the twentieth century

provide us with the eschatology necessary to recognize the proverbial writing on the wall.

The electronic book is a major innovation in the form of the book, which has been evolving over

the last forty five hundred years and as such, meets the need for “light” speed. The E-book meets societies

need for readily accessible information; it assimilates the current technological knowledge and experience,

our modern organizational experience and capability, the capability of integrating a new form into existing

information systems, and it is economically viable. The electronic-book system, when fully developed, will

need to be accessible by a device that will serve as a comfortable vade mecum for an individual user. If we

define a book as a storehouse of human knowledge intended for dissemination in the form of an artifact that

is portable as well as transportable, then the E-book is the future means of conveying this organized

In the last third of the twentieth century, the book in the shape of a long familiar object composed

of inked sheets folded, cut, and bound began to metamorphose into the book as a screen display on an

electronic machine. The transformation, in materials, shape, and structure, of the device (The PC) for

carrying written and graphic information has been more extant than any since the original creations on clay

and papyrus in the third millennium B.C. While the E-book may not replace the printed book any time in

the near future, I am sure that my yet unborn great-great-great-grandchildren will find it a daunting task to

find an affordable if existent printed book.