Books in the 22nd Century

I’ve just read a book called “Written for Children” by John Rowe Townsend. It was published in 1974 and gives the history of writing for children (in English) up to that time. It was very interesting reading. What I’d like to comment on here is the final chapter, where the author talks about the future of books (p333 onwards):

The question that arises next is whether changes in the book world might be overtaken by technological developments which would make the book itself, or at any rate reading for pleasure, obsolete. … Myself, I have an instinctive faith in the ability of the book to keep going. It is a tough old bird, after all. People thought that the cinema and radio and television would kill it, but they have not done so yet. Perhaps it is not too wildly optimistic to hope that in the twenty-first century, when all the modern miracles and some we have not yet dreamed of have come to pass, a child will still be found here and there, lying face down on the hearthrug or whatever may be then have replaced the hearthrug, light years away from his surroundings, lost in the pages of a book.

It makes me happy to know that Mr Townsend’s vision did in fact come to pass and that children can still be found lost in a book even here in the twenty-first century. And it gives me hope that in the same way that the book was not killed by cinema or radio or television, that it will also survive the internet and the ipad.
And finally it makes me think of a parallel situation in mathematics. I have heard people say that the computer is forever changing the way mathematics is done. This is definitely true, but I don’t believe that the “old ways” will die. I believe that there is a certain joy that comes from doing something yourself, from scratching out a problem yourself on paper, from playing with symbols and pictures, from visualising things in your own mind, from dreaming about new ideas — a joy that is absent when the computer does things for you. So I hope that even in the 22nd century you’ll still see people sitting down with a pencil and paper scribbling as they try joyfully to solve a problem all on their own.

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One Response

  1. Julia Miller says:

    Lovers of fiction who are afraid books might disappear will probably enjoy Jasper Fforde’s Bookworld novels: His Department of Jurisfiction will keep things on track!