Newspapers Doomed - SF Writers

Science fiction writers see newspapers as a very delicate medium; we're entering a period of history in which they are being challenged like never before. It's not bad enough that people read so few books and magazines (let alone newspapers); the Internet economics of news delivery (zero cents) are driving the price of news to nothing.

In his 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451, sf Grandmaster Ray Bradbury writes this about the fate of newspapers:

"... How like a beautiful statue of ice it was. I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation...

Stanislaw Lem didn't think they'd last, either. In his 1961 novel Return From the Stars, he wrote that although virtually every book imaginable was available for reading, almost no one did. They preferred lectons that would read to you.

But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons - like lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation. Only scientific publications having a very limited distribution were still printed, on a plastic imitation paper.

Don't forget the babble machines from H.G. Wells' futuristic classic When the Sleeper Wakes, set in the far future.

Graham learnt that so far as the more prosperous classes were concerned, in all the more comfortable private apartments of the city were fixed Babble Machines that would speak directly a lever was pulled. The tenant of the apartment could connect this with the cables of any of the great News Syndicates that he preferred...

In a recent article (published online, natch), modern-day sf writer Cory Doctorow doesn't think that newspapers will last much longer, either.

Let me start by saying that I like newspapers. And let me say further that, no matter how much I like them, they just might not have a future...

What happened to newspapers is easy to understand: There are more and better ways for an advertiser to deliver ads of similar quality to the "spendiest" newspaper readers, most of them on the Internet.

Doctorow doesn't seem to think much of school books, either: in his recent novel Little Brother, he writes about a standard laptop that every schoolchild will have - a 'SchoolBook they can use to read news on as well.

On the other hand, they're still here. Newspapers just have to learn how to use their wide-screen display, unlimited readable life (no batteries) and their archival quality (once you've got it in print, it can't be changed, retracted or redacted).

Read more about Cory Doctorow's opinions on newspapers, music and movies.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/24/2009)

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