What Will Books Be Like in the Future?


Source: MichaelGaida, CC0 via Pixabay
As the versatility of eBooks and electronic reading devices increases, everyone loves to wonder about the future of the printed word. Will there ever be a time when physical, actual books no longer exist outside of digital media? I recently heard someone claim that cash would soon be nonexistent, due to the popularity of credit and debit cards. I’ll admit that I almost never have cash on me unless I withdraw it in anticipation of a special event. I still remember walking into a bank to use the ATM, dressed in a red and black pirate dress and corset, to withdraw cash for the Renaissance Faire. It was an amusing morning! 

In February of last year, I wrote a short story called Words of Power based on a prompt about the power of words. As bloggers and writers, I think most of us would agree that words are powerful. I love reading so much because the words are able to transport me to another place, to make me feel joy or despair for original characters. So what would happen if words disappeared from humanity entirely? Does the possibility even exist?

My story featured a nameless female character who considered herself a scribe, and took refuge in a run-down library. In this future scenario, books were no longer read, because words were no longer necessary. Even the spoken word was in the past, because of a new technological invention: mindspeak. Humans could transcend speech and even the barriers of language with a device worn on the head that manipulated the mind. With the mindspeak device, people could communicate with each other through conjured images and feelings. In the story, this direct line of communication became so effective (and addictive) that words were neglected, and eventually forgotten. 

The protagonist is an enigma in the story – she could still read and write, and did not possess a mindspeak device. She lived in fear of those that did, and constantly dreaded unwelcome visits to the abandoned library. The one visitor she got revealed something even more terrifying: the absence of mindspeak altogether.

What would you do if something like mindspeak became invented? Would you use it, or would you refuse it? I personally feel that language, written or spoken, is too important to disappear. But the concept of a device like mindspeak does unsettle me a bit (even though it came from my mind in the first place). I wonder if people would slowly lose their minds from lack of physically talking to one another. It makes me think of Wilson from Castaway. 

The story was well received on deviantART – the best of any writing I posted previously – and I keep reminding myself to turn it into something more someday. Maybe a longer short story, or an installment in chapters. I’d love to expand on the world, and precisely how mindspeak came to be. 

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