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Future of Books

May 29, 2009 • Volume 19, Issue 20
Will traditional print books disappear?
By Sarah Glazer

Introduction

Cover photo: Amazon's
		  Kindle 2 (Reuters/Mike Segar)
Amazon's Kindle 2 digital book reader can store hundreds of books and read text aloud. Like the electronic Sony Reader, the Kindle features glare-free text easier on the eyes than a computer screen. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

The migration of books to electronic screens has been accelerating with the introduction of mobile reading on Kindles, iPhones and Sony Readers and the growing power of Google's Book Search engine. Even the book's form is mutating as innovators experiment with adding video, sound and computer graphics to text. Some fear a loss of literary writing and reading, others of the world's storehouse of knowledge if it all goes digital. A recent settlement among Google, authors and publishers would make more out-of-print books accessible online, but some worry about putting such a vast trove of literature into the hands of a private company. So far, barely 1 percent of books sold in the United States are electronic. Still, the economically strapped publishing industry is under pressure to do more marketing and publishing online as younger, screen-oriented readers replace today's core buyers — middle-aged women.

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