I can only hope that provincialism and myopia disappear faster than we might imagine. From his statement, Zack appears to be unaware that much, if not most, of the world lives in locations where electricity is unreliable, broadband is unavailable and devices like iPods - let alone tablet computers - are prohibitively expensive. The fragility of electricity-dependent devices will only be compounded by ensuing climate change-related disasters and environmental upheaval. (Even without abnormal weather conditions, I've been amazed at the amount of insect life that I've had to dislodge from my laptop's keyboard and screen while working in Kenya.)[N]o one believes that the days of paper books aren't numbered. It will take a couple of generations for kids to be fully separated from paper books and adults ready to read everything on a tablet of some kind, but I wouldn't recommend anyone more than a decade from retirement invest in starting a bookstore. We are experiencing the beginning of the end of paper books right now. The brick-and-mortar store and the paper book will disappear faster than you might imagine.
A book, on the other hand - as J.M.G. Le Clezio observed in his Nobel speech - is an "ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate." He might also have added that a book is less likely to be stolen than a Kindle, that it won't clog up a landfill or contaminate a water source with its toxic e-waste, and that reading off a screen of any kind, no matter how gentle on the eyes, is less versatile than reading from a book. (Try reading off a screen in the bathtub.)
All of which is to say: the future is about versatility. The world's economic, environmental, cultural, technological and knowledge-management conditions are, and will continue to be, in flux. Successful navigation of the field will require adaptability and flexibility above all other skills. In this context, books will always have a place.
What is misplaced are smugly confident predictions premised on demonstrably-incorrect assumptions of never-ending prosperity.
(Image of the world's greatest technology from the MIT Libraries blog)