Jeff Bezos of Amazon has just announced details of Kindle, the e-book reader. The general idea of e-books is that they will replace current physical books. With one e-book reader we can read any number of books and life will be good. This is indeed good news for travellers. I for one lug around a lot of books when I travel, so a single e-reader is probably good medicine. But of course, my futurist hat tells me that things could be a quite different.
My firm conviction is that books are passe, done for. It seems to me that mankind’s method of absorbing information, which was revolutionised by books a few centuries ago, will now go though another change on the back of unlimited and costless virtual storage & delivery. In fact, ‘information’ itself will possibly change from primarily the written word to an amalgam of sound, moving images and maybe some bit of the written word. In which sense, we are reverting to an earlier mode, where the spoken word – legends & ballads – was the primary source of information.
So, as much as I mourn my own statement (I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t read books), I think this is where it is going. And I am certain that all evidence to the contrary, the current unprecedented popularity of books is just the last dying embers of an era we were familiar with. Changes are always like that. As Malcolm Gladwell so evocatively explained, underlying trends build up and suddenly they ‘tip over’.
I hope I am wrong; but I think I am not. So, Kindle might not be the revolutionary thingummy for the new century. In the meantime, I suspect it will be useful to travellers for the next few years. For just USD 400, enjoy it while it lasts.