Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on the Future of the Book

The Future of Books and Libraries

Dr. Sidney Berger.

The phrase "paperless society" has been paraded before us for at least 30 years, implying that eventually all communication will be virtual and that books—and therefore libraries—will become obsolete. Predictions of bookless libraries, universal bibliographical control, and universal access to information have been making news for decades.

Such predictions are inaccurate, poorly conceived, based on inadequate knowledge and ignorance of the mechanics of living, and—in a word—foolish.

For many reasons—practical, historical, moral, economic, sociological, aesthetic, legal, and psychological—these predictions are simply wrong. The book and libraries have a strong future.

In a variety of ways, and for several reasons, centuries of scholarship, research, reading, and information seeking have inured the phenomenon of the codex and the institution of the library in our culture, worldwide.

Printing from moveable type in the Western world threatened to displace the scribe and bring an end to the production of manuscripts. Printing did, indeed, alter the way information was created, perceived, used, and stored. But today manuscripts are still being produced and there are thousands of scribes (calligraphers) and others who still use pens. One technology need not crowd out an older one completely. New technologies and older ones can coexist, feeding off one another, and propagating each other. In fact, with the emergence of the digital world, more books—the physical objects—have been produced than ever before in history. There are no signs that this trend is diminishing.


Dr. Sidney Berger  (United States)
Professor, English and Communications
Departments of English and Communications
Simmons College

Ph.D. 1971, Medieval & Renaissance Lit. & Bibliography
Master's, Library & Information Sci., 1987
Prof., English & Bibliography at Univ. of Calif., Davis 1971-1978
Head, Special Collections, Rivera Lib., Univ. of Calif., 1990-2000
Director, California Center for the Book, 2000-2002
Taught Hist. of the Bk. 1971 to present
Adjunct Prof., UCLA, UC Riverside, 1990-2002; Univ. of Illinois, 2003
Printer; publisher; papermaker; type caster; book historian

  • Future of Books
  • Future of Libraries
  • Books
  • Libraries
  • Printing
  • Reading
  • Scholarship
  • Research
  • Authenticity/authoritativeness of texts

(Plenary Speaker, English)