If you’re like me, you’re probably getting tired of the whole ebook/print debate. But even so, I had to take note of this assertion from Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, on CNN that not only will physical books disappear, but that they’ll be gone in five years.
Five years? Really? To be fair, while Negroponte appears to mean this statement generally, his evidence rests firmly on his work in Africa, where he sees ebooks following the ubiquity of cell phones in developing nations. And indeed, if a society with no access to or history with any book format is suddenly given the choice between a bunch of dusty old tomes or a laptop with thousands of titles, the winner seems obvious.
But again—five years? While I’m sort of impressed by the sheer brazenness of Negroponte’s prediction—this is the first time I’ve seen an actual expiration date for the printed book—it does seem a bit hard to swallow, for any number of well-discussed reasons. I guess the only true way to test Negroponte’s theory is to check back with him on October 2015 and see what formats we’re reading. But then again, maybe Negroponte’s talking head days will be over in, oh, 2 ½ years? Maybe CNN will be gone in 4? The internet in 3 ¼?