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Remind me: how dead is the Book again?

I’m meant to give a talk in Sydney called Perish the Thought, about the death (and/or resurrection) of the book, so I’ve been studying. Here’s a lovely eighty-year-old fragment of poetry on the subject, by one Bob Brown. It comes from his self-published book Words (1931). It’s a confident prediction of what lies ahead:
In the reading-machine future / Say by 1950 ...

Nineteen-fifty has come and gone. Have we arrived in the reading-machine future yet?

Always fun to consult the oracle regarding the future of the book. If you have favorite prophecies, I’d love to hear them.


  1. Paul F. Walters says

    A book is a book, irrespective of medium. When CD’s came out, people used to make a false distinction between “albums” and “CD’s,” yet the work remains the work, and now no one objects to the phrase, “mp3 album.”

    A book is a book, no matter the nook (with apologies to B&N).

    • Devin says

      If we’re comparing books to albums, let’s think about how many young people actually listen to full albums anymore. I would argue that singles dominate, with people downloading songs individually and making their own playlists, rather than listening to the album from start to finish as the artist intended. As this behaviour continues, the artists have been adapting their craft, and making more disconnected albums. I believe Radiohead’s latest offering is evidence of this.

      Will the same happen to books? Will anyone read an 800 page novel anymore? Or will books increasingly look like what TED.com is now offering in the form of 40 page mini-books? http://www.ted.com/pages/567

    • Roberto Guareschi says

      What is a book? A film is not a book. Recorded, oral languaje, music, noises, etc are not a book. Would you say that all these media, together with text in a unified language, are still a book.

  2. Deborah Rose Reeves says

    Ooh, I love this, so glad to come across you. I just finished writing a short essay on this very subject – somehow managed to contrive a tenuous link to the Book is Dead furore and Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the debunking of the repressive hypothesis. I’m not usually that dull but I find the whole debate fascinating.


    Good luck with your talk. I lived in Sydney many years ago and still cry that I’m not there sometimes.

  3. Mitzi G Burger says

    One thing I do hope for is better books available in audio. Travel and books now go together even better.

  4. Jelena says

    A book contains recorded thoughts, emotios, sensations, images… And it will never die as long as people think, feel, sence…or deevolve and forget how to record thoughts, emotions…

  5. Bridie says

    More of a reference to Language of Absolutes re

    May it last,


  6. Roberto Guareschi says


    If a book is not just paper and text, but text, audio and visuals, it will never die.
    But it will not be called a book. So I guess there’s no point in discussing its death.

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