In our technological driven age, where electricity is a necessity, and boredom easily sets in when we are not driven by multimedia, many would consider the simple "book" to be an outdated technology that will slowly be replaced by e-readers and "the cloud" of computing. But therein is the problem; we are making a base assumption about our future. We assume that things will continue and progress as they have been; that computers will continue to grow more powerful; that bandwidth will increase; batteries will increase in storage; and that our world will continue to have a steady supply of energy necessary to run and power all our little gadgets and tools.
But should we be so quick to assume that? At any moment, we are mere seconds away from going "dark", being cut off from the Internet and local power grids. Things happen; for example, a hostile nation could choose to detonate a nuclear device in our atmosphere, plunging the United States into an electromagnetic darkness, instantly frying circuits. I'm not saying that we should live in fear, but that no man knows what the future truly holds. It has been calculated that the rate of information humans produce roughly doubles each year. Most of that information is being stored on computers, external hard drives, and the Internet.
But look at the wonderful technology that is the book! Books have no external powersource, don't need to be recharged, and are not so expensive that they cannot be loaned or gifted away. Books have limitations: they need light in order to be read; you cannot add new information to most books; and you cannot interact with books as you could a digital text. The book is a form of technology that has been steadily improved on since it's conception but has basically remained static. Books are directly responsible for newer technologies such as the Internet.
Bolter mentions that the early Christian church chose to switch from papyrus to codex to store their writings because the codex could contain more information (Bolter, 78), and many others followed suit. Nowadays we have begun to digitize everything because of the vast storage that is available to us. And yet we still have a Library of Congress, books continue to get published, the dictionary and encyclopedia are updated each year, and the phone book is published. But we all mainly use Google Books, the Kindle, dictionary.com, Wikipedia, and search engines. Yet if you take away the portal that is depend on other factors to function, we grudgedly resort to using the printed version.
The Internet and computers have been a great contribution to humanity. The wealth of information obtained and distributed through it as enormous! And the irony is not lost that this blog post is being written digitally as well, although it's not the instruments that define writing (see "The medium is the message", McLuhan). But a hundred years ago, and maybe a hundred years into the future, the book will still be around, still be the chosen medium for storing and obtaining information, yet much information gathered during the golden years of the Digital Age will have been lost.
So as Google Books continues to digitize every book every made, to our benefit...print out a copy of those books you find most precious, for your grandchildren's benefit.