Somehow I doubt that computers are going to enitrely displace print media
anytime soon. It seems to be a widely held myth that new technologies
either utterly fail, or wildly succeed, completely displacing an existing
technology. A more realistic view is that many new technologies utterly
fail, a few widely publicized ones capture the public's imagination and
succeed brilliantly, while most non-failing new technologies are introduced
to neither yawning indifference nor widespread admiration.
The electric light has not "killed" the candle or gas lamp, though these
older lighting technologies have been relegated to niche markets, such as
Coleman camping lanterns. The ball point pen has not "killed" the pencil,
though the share of use of pencils vs. pens has shifted. While the Web
certainly did displace Gopher, it did not "kill" FTP, though the use of FTP
has definitely changed since the introduction of the Web. And so on.
Similarly, it seems quite likely that print medium will not be entirely
displaced. Computers as a reading medium still have far to go before they
reach the price point of print medium. Even if a reading machine were under
US$100, this is still beyond the means of a large fraction of the Earth's
population. And then there are the user-interface arguments, the long litany
of pros vs cons of paper vs. computer, which need no repetition for this
My call: Computers will become the medium of choice for books and subscribed
periodicals for college-educated members of the middle and upper class of
first-world nations by around 2010, plus or minus 3 years, with broader
diffusion occurring slowly over the rest of the century.
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