What will books look like in ten years?

Jan 2, 2013 | Book Publishing

Jim Blasingame always asks me good questions. When I was on his show last Friday, the big question was: “What’s the new definition of a book?” The short answer is “Beats me.”

Let’s review what happened the last time the definition of a book changed after Gutenberg invented his press. Before Gutenberg, books were very different than they are today.

There were no page numbers, no indices, and no tables of contents. They’re all part of what we call a book today and they make the document more usable and searchable. Expect more ease of use and searchability features to be part of tomorrow’s books.

I think that electronic books will become the dominant form of book, but that the change will take twenty to thirty years. It’s a generational thing.

The USPS said that a paper book had to have at least fifty pages. If books are electronic, length is essentially irrelevant. Even so, expect books to get shorter rather than longer as authors zero in on small niches and as links replace length.

Books will include more rich media. There will be audio and video as part of the book. There will be interactive features.

Those are my guesses and I’m pretty sure that some of them will turn out mostly correct. Niels Bohr was right, though: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”