With the new Apple iPad and other tablets to follow, there’s been much debate over the future of printed media. Some people believe that printed books and magazines are dead, while others believe this is just a phase in our culture. Though there are strong arguments for each side, the outcome really depends on the type of media combined with the technology available, and isn’t as clear-cut as just black or white. The future of reading is varied and depends mostly on the type of work it is.

“Journalism: English for the 21st Century”
– Esther Wojcicki
“E-Textbooks to iPads: Do Teenagers Use Them?”
– Esther Wojcicki
One of the areas that are growing rapidly is online and digital news. Though there is still some debate about other media forms, news online is becoming the norm for many people these days. The Web is perfect for people who want to know the basics of a story. There even seems to be a different, shorter writing style developing specifically for online news, as “people typically spend two minutes or less on a site.” However, this isn’t to say that printed journalism will die out entirely—it all depends on the type of article you’re looking for. Here is the classic depth versus breadth issue, where Web sites provide lots of articles quickly while printed works let you actually learn about the story. In the near future it seems as if online journalism will become increasingly popular for its accessibility and speed, while print will become more of a leisure activity, unless you are looking for a lengthy article.

One of the most overlooked areas in future digital reading is a student textbook. Though it will take a little work before the technology will be advanced enough, once it is textbooks will be a huge area for digital reading. It would be much more convenient to have one device with all of your textbooks on it. For many students it’s a huge pain because they have to carry two or three textbooks home just to do their homework. In addition, most of the classes don’t have a double set of textbooks so you have to carry them back and forth each time you need them and can’t just leave them at home. Once publishers start making textbooks available online it will also be much less expensive than having to buy the actual book. Overall it seems as if it is inevitable that textbooks will become digitized.

Lastly, there’s the more complicated issue of leisure media, such as books and magazines. Many people are much more unsure about the future of books and magazines. Logistically, it makes sense that they will soon only be available digitally—bookstores are going out of business, and there are many more tablets and digital readers coming out. However, at the same time people like having the tactile feel of a book or magazine in their hands when they’re relaxing. For example, you’re not going to take your tablet or Kindle to the beach—you’d bring the real thing. When asked, everyone in our English class said they would rather read an actual book then read it online. Still, once the technology improves, books and magazines are likely to die out. It’s possible some will remain, but it’s hard for the bookstores and much more expensive. Books and magazines eventually may not be printed, but with the current technology there’s still room for both.

In the end the future of reading really depends on the type of reading you’re talking about. However, it seems likely that most reading will become digitized in the future. Besides the type of reading, the other major factor contributing to the future of media is the technology available. These two factors will help determine the future of reading, which currently looks as if it is going online.

Emily Rosenthal wrote this essay when she was in ninth grade for a class at Palo Alto High School taught by Esther Wojcicki, director of the school’s journalism program.

Most popular articles from Nieman Reports

Show comments / Leave a comment