5 inspiring science fiction visions of the book

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Digital book is not a fad. It’s with us for over 40 years, since Michael S. Hart founded Project Gutenberg and digitized the text of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Long before, famous science fiction writers were challenging our imagination with their visions of the books in the future. We collected 5 most exciting and inspiring ones. Some of them, after so many years, turn to be amazingly accurate.

1943 – Anthony Boucher

Boucher wrote in One Way Trip:

There were even microbooks in the rocket, with a small pocket-model viewer; there was hardly space for a projector.

1951 – Isaac Asimov

In The Fun They Had, a lovely short story written for a children’s magazine, Asimov was writing about telebooks – books displayed on a television screen:

They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly… and then, when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it…”Gee,” said Tommy. “What a waste. When you’re through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have had a million books on it and its good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.

“Same with mine,” said Margie. She was eleven and hadn’t seen as many telebooks as Tommy had.

1961 – Stanisław Lem

In Stanisław Lem’s classic sci-fi book, Return from the Stars, we can read about a store with electronic books.

I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I have looked forward to them, after the micro films that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it. But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons – like lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation. Only scientific publications having a very limited distribution were still printed, on a plastic imitation paper. Thus all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles. My handful of crystal corn – my books. I selected a number of works on history and sociology, a few on statistics and demography, and what the girl from Adapt had recommended on psychology. A couple of the larger mathematical textbooks – larger, of course, in the sense of their content, not of their physical science. The robot that served me was itself an encyclopedia, in that – as it told me – it was linked directly, through electronic catalogs, to templates of every book on earth. As a rule, a bookstore had only single “copies” of books, and when someone needed a particular book, the contents of the work was recorded in a crystal. The originals – Crystomatrices – were not to be seen; they were kept behind pale blue enamel the steel plates. So a book was printed, as it were, every time someone needed it. The question of printings, of their quantity, of their running out, had ceased to exist. Actually, a great achievement, and yet I regretted the passing of books.

1965 – Philip K. Dick

In The Zap Gun Philip K. Dick wrote:

Before him lay the October 2003 copy of the uncivilized comic book, The Blue Cephalopod Man From Titan. At the moment, his lips moving, he examined the entertaining adventure, The Blue Cephalopod Man Meets the Fiendish Dirt-Thing That Bored to the Surface of Io After Two Billion Years Asleep in the Depths! He had reached the frame where the Blue Cephalopod Man, roused to consciousness by his sidekick’s frantic telepathic efforts, had managed to convert the radiation-detecting portable G-system into a Cathode-Magnetic Ionizing Bi-polar Emanator.

With this Emanator, the Blue Cephalopod Man threatened the Fiendish Dirt-Thing as it attempted to carry off Miss Whitecotton, the mammate girlfriend of the Blue Man. It had succeeded in unfastening Miss Whitecotton’s blouse so that one breast – and only one; that was International Law, the ruling applying severely to children’s reading material – was exposed to the flickering light of Io’s sky. It pulsed warmly, wiggled as Pete squeezed the wiggling-trigger. And the nipple dialated like a tiny pink lightbulb, upraised in 3-D and winking on and off, on and off … and would continue to do so until the five-year battery-plate contained within the back cover of the mag at last gave out.

Tinnily, in sequence, as Pete stroked the aud tab, the adversaries of the adventure spoke.

1979 – Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, in his famous The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, described electronic book as a device with three-by-four inch screen (smartphone size), you can tap on (touchscreen) and listen to (text-to-audio sync).

Ford handed the book to Arthur.

“What is it?” asked Arthur.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a sort of electronic book. It tells you everything you need to know about anything. That’s its job.”

Arthur turned it over nervously in his hands.

“I like the cover,” he said. “Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

“I’ll show you how it works,” said Ford. He snatched it from Arthur who was still holding it as if it was a two-week-dead lark and pulled it out of its cover.

“You press this button here you see and the screen lights up giving you the index.”

A screen, about three inches by four, lit up and characters began to flicker across the surface.

“You want to know about Vogons, so I enter that name so.” His fingers tapped some more keys. “And there we are.”

The words Vogon Constructor Fleets flared in green across the screen.

Ford pressed a large red button at the bottom of the screen and words began to undulate across it. At the same time, the book began to speak the entry as well in a still quiet measured voice. This is what the book said…

Via Technovelgy.

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