Thursday, 25 November 2010

Page against the machine

I had a really eye-opening moment in London Bridge train station yesterday and it's been playing on my mind ever since.

As I was weaving through the crowds between the underground and the overground stations, I spotted an advert for an iPad. It's an advert which I've seen countless times before, but for some reason last night, I stopped and thought about what I was looking at for the first time. 

The advert depicts someone turning a page of an eBook on an iPad. You can see the edge of the 'page' being turned in the bottom right hand corner with a swipe of a finger, a bit like this:

Flickr photo: Mike Baird
And suddenly it dawned on me: at some point, in the future, people won't turn real, paper pages anymore. OK, so this may be hundreds of years in the future, rather than in the next few decades, but ultimately pages, as we know them, will no longer exist. And this makes me sad.

On the train on the way home I looked at the passengers around me. Every single person in my immediate vicinity was preoccupied with something they were holding. Out of ten people, seven were reading newspapers or books, one was watching a video on his iPhone, another was browsing the web on his smartphone and another was reading an Amazon Kindle. How long before the technology is more prominent than physical, paper-based content? Indeed, you could almost argue that my unscientific sample is unrepresentative, and that technology is already overtaking paper.

For future generations, the act of swiping a screen with a finger is going to be more familiar than turning a real page, and there will come a time when children won't have ever touched a book or a newspaper or a magazine. Or perhaps, one day, they won't even have touched any kind of paper at all. The concept of physical pages will be totally and utterly alien to them. How terrifying is this?? 

They'll go round to their grandparents' houses, and giggle at the massive, dusty objects on the bookshelves, and roll their eyes at how crap the 'olden days' were when everyone had to lug around textbooks and get their fingers covered in newsprint. Parents will have to explain to their guffawing offspring that the concept of a bookmark on web browsers was named after strips of card or leather, which you actually had to PUT BETWEEN PAPER PAGES TO REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE IN A BOOK. LOL.

But what will happen to all the books? What will happen to the libraries? Will charity shops be inundated with books when more and more people begin to replace their collections with one tiny gadget? I don't mean to lament technology, I simply find it absolutely mind-boggling - yet fascinating - how this digital revolution is happening all around us. Funnily enough, the advert which brought it home for me was what you would call a 'poster' ad, yet it was on a digital display, rather than a paper poster. This only reiterates my ultimate question: when will pages cease to exist?

On the upside, good news for trees.


Emma McFarnon said...

I completely agree with this. Consuming online is great, but nothing quite compares to print. I love the way newspapers and books feel, it's so much more personal.

Great post.

Emma McFarnon

Tiff said...

You should read Super Sad True Love Story...Ironically it was the first book I read on my kindle.