This column in today’s Chicago Tribune theorizes about what will happen to printed books and physical bookstores in the coming years. I have to say that I agree with many of the points made, particularly when Keilman talks about printed books having a future. He also rightly points out that big-box bookstores may not be around forever, or at least competing big-box bookstores (Borders’ demise is sort of the premise/focus of the column).
The column is exciting, however, because Keilman had a conversation with me before he wrote it. I was pleasantly surprised today to see how accurately Keilman represented the CSC Lab’s research on the academic potential of e-readers. I’m glad to see this discussion about “paper vs. digital” becoming a lot less about one technology killing the other as if both of them are ancient gladiators, and more about what these technologies have to offer the people who use them. In particular, what about the people who prefer paper or e-readers? How did they develop their preferences, and why do they persist? That’s a much more interesting question than whether paper will “die” as a medium or as a reading technology.