The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.

Geoffrey Nunberg

On Prediction

"Prediction, as James O'Donnell observes, is a mug's game. Still, I am willing to venture at least one more prediction here: by the end of the decade all our current talk of the "end of the book" will sound as dated and quaint as most of the other forecasts of this type... --photography will kill painting, movies will kill the theater, television will kill movies, and so on.... For one thing, the complexity and heterogeneity of the new mediasphere should by then be as evident as the heterogeneity of the world of film and television had become by 1960s or so. For another, these proclamations inevitably lose their value as positioning moves once the technology is no longer the property, material or intellectual, of a privileged faction. Indeed, access to the Internet has already become so widespread that many of the academics and technologists who pioneered its development have begun to complain about its vulgarization and to avoid its discussion groups; the Net has become like the fashionable restaurant about which Sam Goldwyn is reported to have said: "It's so crowded thse days, nobody goes there anymore." Within a few years, there will be no predigital bourgeoisie left to épater " (13).

On The Future

"The one thing that is certain is that the introduction of new technologies will be accompanied by a dispersion of the cultural and communicative functions we associate with the book. There was never any essential reason why we should consign our novels and parts catalogs to the same artifacts, or why we should sell poetry and cookbooks in the same retail outlets, and now that we can imagine doing things otherwise, the contingency of the present is brought home to us. It leads us to a view of the future that is far from the determinism of the visionaries: when everything is possible, nothing is forgone" (20).

Return to Front Node / Book Table of Contents