Are we about to see the end of printing? I was reading about the latest attempt at an electronic book. People have been talking about this sort of thing as a serious proposition for at least 30 years (Chris Evans' book "The Mighty Micro", 1979, for example), but no-one has yet managed to wean us off paper.
Thirty years ago, it would have been very difficult to produce such a thing. Computers didn't have a lot of memory. Displays used either very primitive LCD technology or CRTs. Most people didn't have any form of electronic technology in their homes.
Nowadays, we're used to carrying around personal electronic items. We are used to getting information from the internet. We don't need to go to the cinema to watch a film. Surely it's time to get rid of the book?
The book does have some advantages. It's cheap to make, but difficult to copy. There are no compatibility issues beyond language. Everyone who can read can read a book - you don't have to pay $400 before you can even get started.
It also has some disadvantages. It's fine to print and distribute thousands or millions of copies of something, but not so good when you only want a few. Printing books involves cutting down trees - how long are the environmentalists going to let us get away with that?
Nowadays, I don't use printed matter very much. Whether at home or at work, it's often more convenient to read things at the screen. As screen real-estate increases (wide screens, multiple screens), you can have a document open on the screen to refer to whilst you're working on something else.
At home the main reason I use electronic media is to read things I can't get in print. Greek newspapers are a little difficult to obtain here on a daily basis - far easier to read a PDF version. Blogs also don't get distributed on paper. Neither does Wikipedia or IMDb. The only advantage I can see to reading these things the old way would be that I could sit in my armchair. So at some point, I need to get a laptop. Problem solved.
But what about the magic of books? What about first editions, signed copies and so on? This is something that doesn't interest me at all. For me, the importance of a book is what's written. I don't understand why someone would pay thousands for a first edition copy of a Dickens book when you can get a newly printed one for a Pound or two.
They're estimating at least 20 years before books disappear. I suspect that when the last book is printed there'll be a news story about it - on the web. And that maybe one or two bloggers (or whatever they'll have then) will pick up on it, but that no-one else will notice.
Personally, I'm not sure I can wait that long - I've already got more books than shelf-space...