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Will books die? Fifty years from now, will I still be perusing a crinkling collection of pages as I recline in my favorite chair? Michael Crichton and Stephen King are leading the way for a wave of online publications, and around every corner a critic is harping about the decline of literature. According to them, the printed medium is at risk of falling into obsolescence. Perhaps I will never again leaf through the New York Times Magazine on a slow Sunday afternoon, but instead find myself pointing a mid-twenty-first century web browser to Rupert Murdoch Jr.'s site.

But there is little to suggest that books will go the way of betamax. During the advent of the space program, many predicted the rise of space food in everyday life, declaring that Sunday dinner would soon consist of a capsule and a glass of distilled water. However, I have savored more real ice cream than the dehydrated variety over the past few weeks. One buys a Creamsicle for its three-dimensional, wet, cold goodness, not for its efficiency. Likewise, I will never choose the hum of a glowing screen over the gentle glissando of flipping pages.

Books are here to stay, not because they should, but because they have no replacement.

Hmmmm...this is very interesting. I don't know whether or not books are on their way out, but I don't really think it matters. Things change, but what I think most people misconceive is what they wind up changing into. It's happened in the past, a certain thing has been all the rave but it turned out that the truly phenominal thing of that age wasn't the obvious thing but something much less noticeable.

Maybe it won't be the internet that winds up being the defining moment of this generation, though I can't imagine what else it'd be.

Actually I'll go as far as to say that books are already dead. Kurt Vonnegut mentioned something multiple times in his book Timequake about how he could feed his family by writing short stories in the fifties, but then when television became popular he had to go find a real job.

Lastly I'll say that not only will books be gone, but that it's happened before - "Stories passed by spoken word are here to stay, not because they should, but because there's no replacement for them."

I'll have to preface this by warning you that I am an English major, so my remarks may be more than a little biased. That said, books will never die. I definitely don't believe that they're already dead. Just look at the market for books; Amazon may not be making any actual money, but they certainly are generating plenty of revenue. Barnes & Noble and Borders aren't doing too bad, either.

What replacements do we have for books? The internet is good for information, but if you're planning on reading War and Peace off of a monitor, you may as well invest in braille right now; "looking into the light" for that long would definitely make you blind. Movies and television are fun and all, but plenty of them come from books. Painting hasn't died out because of photography; books won't die because of television.

There's a certain tangibility to books that no other form of media has been able to replace thus far. The smell of the binding, the feel of the pages, the sound of the turning page...these may not be as exciting for you as they are for me, but there are millions of people out there who are as hooked on books as any junkie is on heroin. And let's not forget children's books, either. There is far more intimacy between a mother and child who cuddle up on the sofa with a copy of Winnie the Pooh than a mother and child who sit in front of the computer and play with a Teletubbies CD-ROM. Those of us who were read to as children associate comfort with books, and when you're taught to enjoy something that much from your childhood, you're not likely to give it up.

Perhaps we aren't as literary a culture as we once were. Then again, the barbarian tribes who took over Europe after the Fall of Rome weren't nearly as literary as their predecessors. But there were a few oases of literature that remained, and those eventually spread and re-educated the masses. I believe the same will always be true. Culture tends to cycle back on itself; this, too, shall pass.

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