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Posted: March 19, 2012

The once and future library: Part 2

Here are 17 ways we're replacing books

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of three parts. Read Part 1.)

The transition to other forms of information has been happening for decades. Once we are able to get past the emotion connection we have to physical books, we begin to see how the information world is splintering off into dozens of different categories.

Here is a list of 17 primary categories of information that people turn to on a daily basis. While they are not direct replacements for physical books, they all have a way of eroding our reliance on them. There may be more that I’ve missed, but as you think through the following media channels, you’ll begin to understand how libraries of the future will need to function:

  1. Games – 135 million Americans play video games an hour or more each month. In the U.S. 190 million households will use a next-generation video game console in 2012, of which 148 million will be connected to the Internet. The average gamer is 35 years old and they have been playing games on average for 13 years.
  2. Digital Books – In January, USA Today reported a post-holiday e-book “surge,” with 32 of the top 50 titles on its most recent list selling more copies in digital format than in print. Self-published e-books now represent 20-27% of digital book sales.
  3. Audio Books - Audiobooks are the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry. There is currently a shortage of audiobooks worldwide as publishers race to meet demand. Only 0.75% (not even 1%!) of Amazon’s book catalog has so far been converted to audio. Last year more than $1 billion worth of audiobooks were sold in the U.S. alone. Over 5,000 public libraries now offer free downloadable audio books.
  4. Newspapers – Online readership of newspapers continues to grow, attracting more than 113 million readers in January 2012. Industry advertising revenues, however, continue to drop and are now at the same level as they were in 1950, when adjusted for inflation.
  5. Magazines – The U.S. magazine industry is comprised of 5,146 businesses publishing a total of 38,000 titles. Time spent reading newspapers or magazines combined is roughly 3.9 hours per week. Nearly half of all magazine consumption takes place with the TV on. The magazine industry is declined 3.5% last year.
  6. Music – According to Billboard’s “2011 Music Industry Report,” consumers bought 1.27 billion digital tracks last year, which accounted for 50.3% of all music sales. Digital track sales increased 8.5% in 2011. Meanwhile, physical sales declined 5%. According to Apple, there are an estimated 38 million songs in the known music universe.
  7. Photos – Over 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day
  8. Videos – Cisco estimates that over 90% of all Internet content will be video by 2015. Over 100,000 ‘years’ of Youtube video are viewed on Facebook every year. Over 350 million Youtube videos are shared on Twitter every year. Netflix streams 2 billion videos per quarter.
  9. Television – According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day, and owns 2.2 televisions. An estimated 41% of our information currently comes from television.
  10. Movies – There are currently over 39,500 movie screens in the U.S. with over 4,500 of them converted to 3D screens. The average American goes to 6 movies per year. However, almost one-third of U.S. broadband Households use the Internet to watch movies on their TV sets, according to Park Associates. That number is growing, with 4% of U.S. households buying a video media receiver, such as Apple TV and Roku, over the 2011 holiday season
  11. Radio – Satellite radio subscribers, currently at 20 million, is projected to reach 35 million by 2020. At the same time, Internet radio is projected to reach 196 million listeners by 2020. These combined equal the same number as terrestrial radio listeners.
  12. Blogs – There are currently over 70 million WordPress blogs and 39 million Tumblr blogs worldwide.
  13. Podcasts – According to Edison Research, an estimated 70 million Americans have listened to a podcast. The podcast audience has migrated from being predominantly “early adopters” to more closely resembling mainstream media consumers.
  14. Apps – There are now over 1.2 million smartphone apps with over 35 billion downloads. Sometime this year the number of apps will exceed the number of books in print – 3.2 million.
  15. Presentations – Leading the charge in this area, SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations. With 60 million monthly visitors and 130 million pageviews, it is amongst the most visited 200 websites in the world.
  16. Courseware – The OpenCourseware movement has been catching fire with Apple leading the charge. iTunesU currently has over 1,000 Universities participating from 26 countries. Their selection of classes, now exceeding the 500,000 mark, have had over 700 million downloads. They recently announced they were expanding into the K-12 market.
  17. Personal Networks – Whether its LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest, people are becoming increasingly reliant on their personal network for information. There are now over 2.8 billion social media profiles, representing around half of all Internet users worldwide. LinkedIn now has over 147 million members. Facebook has over 1.1 billion members and accounts for 20% of all pageviews on the Internet. Google+ currently has over 90 million users.

Each of these forms of information has a place in future libraries. Whether or not physical books decline or even disappear has little relevance in the overall scheme of future library operations.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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