Electronic books are cheap, easy to download, and light to carry. Popular thinking over the last several years has affirmed the belief that print is gasping its last breaths and reading is going digital. In a 2006 Guardian article, Jeff Jarvis called the book “an outdated means of communicating information.” In 2010, tech mogul Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop per Child project, predicted that the demise of physical books would occur within five years. And in 2011, TechCrunch insisted, “they’re not going to make it past this decade…The time has come to move on.” The death of the book seemed inevitable: as CDs overtook records and iTunes overtook CDs, so e-books would naturally overtake the printed text.
A current of fatalism permeated this thinking. Techno-utopians hailed the e-book as one of the greatest developments of the information revolution. Techno-dystopians perceived in it the decline of intellectual and humanist values. But both saw an inexorable movement to electronic reading. It was survival of the fittest, and the e-book—cheaper, lighter, greener, and trendier than its ungainly ancestor—was clearly slotted to come out on top.