The e-book revolution won’t “be a simple matter of trading ink for pixels,” writes futurist Steven Johnson in the Wall Street Journal. Books have become “the dark matter of the information universe,” walled off from our new hyperlinked, Google-indexed frame of reference, but that’s about to change. Every word in every book will be searchable, a boost in idea-dissemination not seen since Gutenberg.
At the same time, the way we read will change. Books won’t command our total attention anymore; we’ll consume them bit by bit, as we consume all other digital things. Every passage will be linked, annotated, commented on; “Nobody will read alone anymore.” Writers will write to improve their Google score, and citations will be rabidly sought. We’ll sell more books, but we might sell some chapter-by-chapter. Nothing, not even the page numbers, will be ever the same.