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02/10/2008 - par Mark Tungate

Will we read books in the future? Last week I was in London for the annual dinner of The Bookseller, the journal for people who work in the British publishing industry. It was held at the Natural History Museum – which was strange, as all the tables were laid out around an enormous dinosaur skeleton. This provoked a debate about whether books were about to become extinct.
Publishers are taking the possibility very seriously. After all, Amazon now sells a wireless, electronic text reader called The Kindle – the literary equivalent of an Ipod. And Sony has followed up with its own Digital Book Reader. In the UK, the bookstore chain Waterstones has just started selling this device. Most of the publishers I spoke to felt that although books would never die, they would become a collectible luxury item, a bit like vinyl records. When people travel – by train or plane – they will take several books and a handful of magazines, all stored on a convenient, lightweight digital reader.
Books may become scarce, but a love of reading will not. On the day after the dinner I met my publisher for lunch at the British Library, the equivalent of the french Bibliothèque nationale. As well as housing a vast archive of books, the library is a place to work (with Wi-fi in public areas), meet and socialize. Its restaurant and outdoor café were packed with students, authors and other brainy types. It made reading seem glamorous. And of course, it has a terrific bookshop.

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