Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Future of Books (or Lack Thereof)

The publishing company McSweeney's operates a daily humor website called Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency. In 2011, the site posted an article by James Warner entitled "The Future of Books." This is not the reading we had for class this week, but instead, it is a delightfully satirical piece chronicling the future evolution of books. It is presented as a timeline stretching between 2020 and 2080. Each decade has a short paragraph describing new trends in books and publishing that appeared at that time. The author pokes fun at e-books, social media, crowd-sourcing, wikis, and many other topics we have discussed throughout the semester. One of my favorite entries in the article is for the year 2040:

2040: Authors Will Become Like Tamagotchi.

Having determined that what readers want is a “sense of connection,” publishers will organize adopt-an-author promotions, repackaging writers along the lines of Webkinz and other imaginary pets. “Feeding” your favorite authors by buying their books will make their online avatars grow less pale and grouchy. If they starve to death on your watch you will lose social networking points. Book clubs will cultivate with their favorite writers the warm, fuzzy, organic bond a trainer develops with his or her Pok√©mon, a process that will culminate in staged fights-to-the-death between your author and the author sponsored by another book club. These fights will occur offline, since there will be one or two bookstores left and something has to happen there.
Other trends of the future to look forward to include when we become cyborgs in 2070 with brain-computer interfaces that cause us to experience stories as sustained hallucinations, or when we decipher dolphin oral literature in 2080 and discover it is inexplicably all about vampires. This was a short, fun article to read, and it provided a humorous counterpoint to the more serious readings for this week.

  • Warner, James. "The Future of Books." Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency 24 Mar. 2011: n. pag.

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