Books in twenty years
Books In Twenty Years
Saturday, 28 January 2012 15:27 Hrs
❝ What I really would like to know is how book stores will look in 20 years?

This is really the most insightful question here.[0] What would a book store look like? I’ll have a stab. Eighteen years ago the Internet existed, the Web was newly born. I come from Melbourne. Melbourne really is a book city with bookshops catering for different interests.

Those who liked comics, science fiction or books on artwork gravitated towards ‛Minotaur’ in Swanston Street, classics or first editions, ‛Hill of Content’ on Collins, old books and out of print first editions, there’s a small shop at the top of Swanston Street. The general public might go to a chain bookshop like ‛Collins’ or ‛Angus and Robinsons’. But if it was anything technical, you turned to ‛McGills’. [1]

❝ It is both sad and true, that some people do in fact buy books based, on the color of the binding.

McGills was a second home to people needed fast access to very specific information. You would probably buy the source of the information if you needed it in a hurry or read it if out of interest. Remember the Web was in its infancy. To gain access to technical information to build complex things (with software,) there was no other choice. McGills was also a hub for nerds.

You’d find programmers, engineers and scientists who would pop in, looking for a particular reference book at lunch time. As the afternoon wore on, it would fill up with students too poor to buy monthly subscriptions to ‛Wired’, ‛Game Programmer’ or the latest ‛Dr.Dobbs’. The era at this time was disconnected, but strangely connected. [2]

Now we have seen what’s happened in the last twenty years. The publishing industry is changing their distribution technology from print to electronic displays. The demise of the bookshop and books. Even so, the prices are similar. What might happen in the next twenty?


We used to go to book shops to find books but the next twenty years is going to get more frustrating when choosing. Twiddling your thumbs over the ‛next’ button is the new, ‛walking down the isle looking for one particular book’.

❝ Everyone has a little Nancy Drew in them. Stock up on the mysteries. [3]

What you want is the google equivalent of finding books; searching by colour; author; quote; film reference; music, even by voice of a character that who played the Hollywood lead. Companies are still working on this hard problem. How to see the product readers want from millions of titles on one small device.


Books have a social element. Instead of going to a bookshop, you now go to your favourite cafe who have installed a new WiFi gadget. It’s only found in particular cafe’s catering for the intersection of coffee lovers and technical book readers. It has all the latest, ‛Open Source manuals’ and blog articles, bundled into books. We dropped the ePub or electronic reference to books years ago.

❝ If you open a store in a college town, and maybe even if you don't, you will find yourself as the main human contact for some strange and very socially awkward men who were science and math majors way back when. Be nice and talk to them, and ignore that their fly is open. [4]

This place is ‛hacker friendly,’ so you can meet other hackers. Specialist WiFI gadgets are appearing all around the place. In food outlets catering for particular audiences. The social aspect of books hasn’t disappeared, just morphed.


Sharing is now a problem. There are free books and restricted books. If you can’t afford a book, you can reserve a copy at the library, then download it. It ceremoniously burns on your machine, before the due date. Another person can now borrow a digital copy. The concept of digital ownership becomes a political one. Book owners don’t take up the ‛Cloud’ concept, after the, ‛great cloud hack’ of 2028. Millions of books are electronically burnt on owners devices as rouge elements of ‛Anonymous’ take their ‛Library of Alexandria’ action too far. All in the name of freer access to live news feeds.

❝ If you put free books outside, cookbooks will be gone in the first hour. [5]

We still hook up to bookshops; glorified websites with sparse text and images of book titles and a google like search engines with predictive analysis software. Sharing of books is difficult. The hardware detects who is using the book. Sharing is not impossible but difficult and risky. Hacks for reader devices are there, if you want to risk being detected and black banned from device sellers. There is always the black market. One of the unintended consequences in ownership restrictions, is if you move from one area to another your book becomes locked and you can't read it unless you pay a regional fee.


The price of certain types of ‛information of value’ skyrockets. Value is dependent on information usage in the market. There are market indexes for everything. Even childrens books like, ‛Dr.Suess’. Censorship is rife, but regional. You can’t access certain types of information in books in certain areas. Old printed books that contain this information go up in price if they can be found. Information is bought and sold on ones ability to locate valuable information in private libraries.

❝ No one buys self help books in a store where there’s a high likelihood of personal interaction when paying. [6]

Enterprising companies that use software to mine old or cheap information and repackaging it as specialist books thrive. Software companies specialising in producing software to extract the essence of book classics like Shakespeare and write alternative scripts for media-vision networks. There’s the Chinese version of ‛Macbeth’ portraying the past regime. A portrayal of the Steinbeck classic, ‛Grapes of Wrath’. re-cast to the present, showing the migration of Californians moving east to escape the water crisis, bought on by severe temperatures and drought. New publishing empires are formed.


The economics of book production change. The cost is now reflected in popularity, the sophistication of the language, translation, region and censorship restrictions.

❝ You will have no trouble getting books, the problem is selling them. [11]

Books that have been simplified, are now more expensive than complicated books. The cost of books fluctuates as the numbers of people who buy it increases or decreases. Books that are popular in certain areas of restricted information become expensive. Some people set up companies to monitor the costs and allow customers to purchase books at their lowest cost.


The display is the new bookshelf. People spend lots of money to purchase the latest hardware. When at home, bookshelves are projected on the TV screen to show what you might want to read.

❝ People are getting rid of bookshelves. [12]

The constraint of the reader is size. Large screens solve this problem scanning personal readers and the network feed then showing a physical representation of the book on the screen for users to see and pick. Psychologists work out that humans are still optomised to scan for titles laid out in physical space.

Humans can’t interface directly with the reading devices yet. That invention happens ten years in the future.


[0] @sunnysideup, Hackernews, ‛comment on story, ‛What I Learned From Opening a Bookstore’’, [Accessed Saturday 28th January, 2012]

[1] McGills facade, ‛A picture of the facade of McGills.’, [Accessed Saturday 28th January, 2012]

[2] Daniel Browen, ‛McGills to close’, [Accessed Saturday 28th January, 2012]

[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] jlsathre, ‛25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore’, [Accessed Saturday 28th January, 2012]


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