At least according to no less than Bill Gates, interviewed today in the Guardian.
Magazines and newspapers would eventually become redundant in their existing form, with interactive, personalised content delivered to handheld devices. "A lot of the reading that's taking place, the richness to be able to call up anything will take over," he said.
Mr Gates pointed to students as an example of how the world would shift from books to bytes. "Within four or five years, instead of spending money on textbooks they'll spend a mere $400 or so buying that tablet device and the material they hook up to will all be on the wireless internet with animations, timelines and links to deep information. But they'll be spending less than they would have on text books and have a dramatically better experience."
Hmm. I'm not convinced.In The Social Life of Information, authors John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid describe a research trip one of them made to Portugal. In an old archive he had to read correspondence from the 1700’s. The dust raised by opening each of the old letters triggered asthma attacks. One day a fellow historian came in and to his astonishment pored over another box of letters in a very unusual way. “He read barely a word. Instead, he picked out bundles of letters and, in a move that sent my sinuses into shock, ran each letter beneath his nose and took a deep breath, at times almost inhaling the letter itself but always getting a good dose of dust. Sometimes, after a particularly profound sniff, he would open the letter, glance at it briefly, make a note and move on. Choking behind my mask, I asked him what he was doing. He was he told me, a medieval historian (a profession to avoid if you have asthma). He was documenting outbreaks of cholera. When that disease occurred in a town in the eighteenth century, all letters from that town were disinfected with vinegar to prevent the disease from spreading. By sniffing for faint traces of vinegar that survived 250 years and noting the date and source of the letters, he was able to chart the progress of cholera outbreaks.” I’ve yet to come across the e-mail I could smell.