Print is Dead. We keep hearing that — but this time around it’s True. Or least, in the process of becoming True. We are probably roughly right before the main crest of what historians of the future might mark on a timeline as “The Decline of Print”.
So, let’s just skip past the entire dying bit. Who wants to watch that anyway? Once it’s buried and the new spring-time of the rendered word comes, what do we see? What remains?
There probably will always be quality hard-bound books. But they will be made-on-demand or in short runs that will cover projected yearly demands. Some works, such as the classics — Shakespeare, Poe, Plato, The Christian Bible, and so on — will always have people who want them physically sitting on their books shelves so they can occasionally touch them, and thumb through their favorite passages. Or more likely so that visitors to their homes can see and admire them.
Large wall-mounted or self-standing computing displays will probably be cheap and ubiquitous 20+ years out, as will portable pad-sized readers of various kinds. That is, both something as big as you can practically fit in a house and something you can conveniently carry around in your hand while you go about your daily business. It is unlikely for practical physical reasons that large-screen portable devices will be all that common outside artistic or engineering niche communities. Thus, large-sized photo-books may still be produced along-side hard-bound literature for the collectors. (Everyone else will just look at them on their large wall-mounted or table-top screens.)
Cheap pulp-books will probably not completely disappear for quite a while out on the fringes of modern civilization, partly because all the old print-books will be dumped there. But the day will come, and not far off, that there will be the ebook equivalent of pulp books. Perhaps mere throw-away novelties, having no more use than the paper hats occasionally showing up on New Years eve. And then forgot. But cheap none-the-less, as close to free as makes no difference, and then the days of print are finally done.
Six hundred years is not a bad run.