Digital Media is Killing the Paperback

By Paul Sillidictionary1.jpg

Electronic information has advanced so rapidly, paperback dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference books are becoming obsolete. When was the last time you used an actual dictionary? I bet it has been awhile. I know there is still a purpose for them in classrooms as a “quick guide” for students, but overall, paperback reference books are uncommon.

Current, reliable information is easily available for those who have a keyboard, cell phone or pocket device. For example, using the net to access services such as Wikipedia is incredibly fast to find information.

Will paperback reference books be needed in the future? If not, at what cost will this have on the bookstores that sell them? 

For a fun language picture dictionary visit:


9 Responses to “Digital Media is Killing the Paperback”

  1. Steve Rosenbaum Says:

    Bill Gates in his book the “Road Ahead” talks a lot about the changes in publishing. A point he makes is that shortly it will be more comfortable to read things electronically than on paper. There’s also a lot more flexibility and interactivity when this happens. Maybe the new tabletop computers will help.

  2. waltzingaustralia Says:

    Actually, I still use the books (generally in addition to, rather than instead of, online resources) for a couple of reasons. First, it’s sometimes easier to have a book at hand so you don’t have to leave the screen or document on which you are working. Second, I write textbooks, and I don’t trust everything on the Internet, so I’ll almost always check a definition or explanation in one or more printed documents. Generally, printed materials have been more carefully vetted than stuff going on the Internet, unless you’re checking a really reliable source (which doesn’t include Wikipedia, at least not if you’re working in educational publishing — it can be a source of ideas, but check everything you read in Wikipedia, at least if you’re planning to publish the information as true.) Even with a reliable source, I usually try to confirm the info in a second source.

    I agree that printed books are diminishing in some fields, and online resources are awfully convenient. But I think book stores will be okay, because there are so many reference books one likes to have in print—such a cookbooks or art books. It will take a while for people to give up reference works in print. And then remember, while horses are no longer a prime means of transportation, there are more horses in the U.S. now than before cars were invented. Books won’t vanish.

  3. gatorball Says:

    Thanks for your comments.
    Great point waltzingaustralia, NOT all info. on the net is reliable or even factual. Often the info you gather is misrepresented or simply false. I hope ref. books are not removed from the shelves. Although with our digital future — it looks like computer info/data will replace a lot of ref. books. Keep in mind, you can put reliable reference books online for fast use for the world to use. Therefore, you will not need the paperback for much longer. Books everyday are being published for the net so online users can access them immediately (and often for free). The digital world is expanding beyond the use of paperback books… It is simply happening. However, reading a computer all day is bad on your eyes. Good point to make.

  4. Steve Rosenbaum Says:

    It’s probably going to be a generational thing. I grew up with newspapers but if you’re 2 years old, you may never open a newspaper because getting news online will be so natural. Think of all the 20 year olds who only use cell phones. They can’t understand why you’d want a phone that ties you to the wall.

  5. waltzingaustralia Says:

    Yes and no. Kids take technology for granted, and it is all more intuitive for them, but most of my friends who are online (and we are of that generation that grew up with newspapers) get all our news online. But that’s different than reference books. Newspapers have always been disposable, with information that is rather ephemeral. Online is perfect for that. But reference books are different.

    And studies are now slowing the use of computers in classrooms. A massive study in Europe showed that kids without computers did far better academically than kids with computers, at least within a classroom context.

    For my money, the biggest plus for books is that they don’t ruin your eyes if you read them for hours on end.

  6. Carolyn Says:

    I certainly hope paperback versions of information are available in the future. Not all of society is open to all of the electronic technology.

  7. gatorball Says:

    Great thoughts to think about. I still project that in time — paper ref. books will be just about totally replaced. Digital media is very easy to access and use. We shall have to see…

  8. Steve Rosenbaum Says:

    It’s only a matter of time before it’s easier to read on a screen than a book. There are no interactive links in a book. No multi-media. Look at it this way, why would having the word at your fingertips maker dumber than kids with a book. Maybe it’s the teachers that don’t know how to use computers or see them as a threat.

    Look at in reverse. Let say all the computer stuff had been invented first. Do you really think anyone would have invented a book? Look at what’s happening to newspapers? They’re all declining in readership, mostly to all the other alternatives.

    Finally, when you look at what’s happening in schools. Many with 50% drop out rates, they aren’t doing so well with books.

  9. gatorball Says:

    I agree with you Steve. There are too many positive statistics supporting general increases in learning from students who use computers and other techie resources. When you make learning fun — learning outcomes improve. Using paperback ref. books is old-school. They still have a purpose, but are not considered “state of the art” teaching. Having students use computers as reseach tools or reference materials is fun and informative for them. I mean think about it, when you are on the Internet you have access to the world… With ref. books you are limited to the pages and info in the book. Digital media has no limits, and you can obtain many references & resources. I guess it is all relative.

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