A charming little essay (less than 5000 words) written at the end of the 19th century. Octave Uzanne predicts that printed books have had their day. Too many books are printed and reading is a strain on the eyes:
“Either the books must go, or they must swallow us up. I calculate that, take the whole world over, from eighty to one hundred thousand books appear every year; at an average of a thousand copies, this makes more than a hundred millions of books, the majority of which contain only the wildest extravagances or the most chimerical follies, and propagate only prejudice and error. Our social condition forces us to hear many stupid things every day. A few more or less do not amount to very great suffering in the end; but what happiness not to be obliged to read them, and to be able at last to close our eyes upon the annihilation of printed things!”
Instead of books, Uzanne predicts that audio books will become popular and may be available in portable versions: i.e. he predicts the Sony Walkman:
“At home, walking, sightseeing, these fortunate hearers will experience the ineffable delight of reconciling hygiene with instruction; of nourishing their minds while exercising their muscles for there will be pocket phono-operagraphs, for use during excursions among Alpine mountains or in the canions of the Colorado.”
He then predicts television and radio.
The file is big because I have included several of the original illustrations.
The End of Books (La fin des Livres
Illustrations by Albert Robida
This English version was from Scribner’s Magazine
, 16, no. 2 (August 1894) pp. 221-231.
Originally published in French in the journal Le Livre,
and later collected in book form in Contes pour les Bibliophiles
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