Making predictions about the end of this or that technology or institution must be a fun hobby — so many seem to have taken it up. It’s probably because you can’t lose: not only do such predictions promote discussion and visibility of the issue, but they are rarely proven wrong. After all, predicting something happening five years in the future allows for enough change to happen along the way that one can say “well, it was a reasonable hypothesis at the time.” Negroponte’s recent remarks at Techonomy concerning the death of printed books have the usual amount of wiggle room in them — which is not to say that they’re false, only that they’re an example of the usual futurist prestidigitation.
The death of printed books (and, by extension, magazines and such) is, of course, merely an ongoing process — a given. What is in the air is the timing. Negroponte says not ten years, but five. Either he has more faith than I do in consumers’ plasticity, or he’s talking about something completely different.