Nicholas Negroponte, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and also the founder of the One Laptop per Child Association made a rather bold prediction at the Techonomy conference in in Lake Tahoe, CA last week. His prediction? Printed books are “dead” within five years. Here’s a summary of his comments from CrunchGear’s Devin Coldewey:
Negroponte thinks that the e-book will kill the physical book within five years. Maybe kill isn’t the right word—printed books aren’t being eradicated. But clearly he thinks that five years from now the battle will be decided. I’d consider e-books selling more than print books (not just hardbacks), with e-book sales going up and physical book sales going down as “victory conditions.” And when I put it like that, it starts sounding a lot more reasonable.*
My own previous prediction made at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference: By 2012 e-books will be 25 percent of sales in the trade publishing market. Will e-book sales be 50 percent or more by 2015? It may very well happen—I’d say even likely to happen. So on that score, Negroponte is correct. But I don’t see print books going away any time soon—not even within 20 years. One thing is for sure: E-books are coming on strong, and are an extremely important new market for authors. Especially new and “unknown” authors.
*CrunchGear (Aug 7) – It’s Futurists Versus Consumers As The Death Of The Book Is Prophesied
7/23/16 Update: Well, it’s more than five years later, and the inestimable Mr. Negroponte is wrong. Although several book chains have gone out of business, sales of hard copy books remains relatively strong. There’s just something so user-friendly about paper!