Remember when books were just…books? If you wanted to read a book, you picked up a book…period. In the beginning, all books were hardcover. Then came “mass market”—small paperbacks printed on inexpensive paper, they were mostly westerns for male readers, romances for females. The next advance was “trade paperbacks,” better-quality paperbacks, larger in size and printed on paper that was heavier, more durable, less brittle, and didn’t have the same tendency to yellow or break that the pages of mass market books did. Another advance was large-type books for people with low vision. And then there were Braille books, with their raised characters, for those who were not sighted at all.
But all these were still paper books.
The advent of audiobooks—books on tape, at first, before the advent of CDs—was a real revolution. Now you could “read” in bed with your eyes closed, or while you drove, or cooked.
Then came the Kindle. You could store reams and reams of books in one small device that never lost your place when you fell asleep while reading. Light and easily portable, it came in handy in the waiting room at the doctor’s or dentist’s, easier to fit in purse or briefcase or fanny pack, or even a very large pocket.
But all this raises the question, What’s next? What will be the next major step in the world of reading?
Will science find a way to transfer the content of books into our brains without our having to view a page or hear a recording?
Will some new device be invented that animates novels so that as you read the text you see a visual representation and hear the dialogue, years before the book is made into a standard movie?
Will you-write-the-ending books become a new craze, allowing readers to get to a certain point in the plot and then finish writing the book themselves, typing on a tiny keyboard included with the book that will somehow transfer the reader’s output onto the printed page, picking up where the plot left off and seamlessly finishing the book with the reader’s desired ending in print?
Will books become available on your TV screen, with adjustable size print for viewing from any distance?
Will a future generation of e-readers (the Kindle and its ilk) come with audio that plays suitable background music to accompany whatever book you are reading?
Or will a new generation of e-readers that display one line at a time be configured small enough to fit on your keychain?
Will eyeglasses or contact lenses be developed that display a book literally in front of your eyes?
Will a projector be developed that projects a book’s pages onto the ceiling of your bedroom, in a suitable type size, so that you can lie on your back in bed and read without tiring your arms from having to hold a book up over your face?
Will an audiobook reader be developed that synthesizes a wide choice of voices, allowing you to hear the book of your choice as read by the voice of your choice?
What’s next in reading’s brave new world?