The End of Books

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 76

Photo by freddie marriage on UNSPLASH.

The writing prompt I chose for today’s flash fiction story was from Grammarly. It said, “Write about what you think the world will look like in 10 years.”

Dare I? Since 2016, I feel I’ve lost all hope in most of my fellow countrymen, in friends, in people I otherwise considered intelligent.

The Emperor’s New Clothes. Some residents in the kingdom were unable (or unwilling) to see that the emperor was naked the whole time.

It is 2021. In ten years, it will be 2031.

It’s doubtful the long-promised utopia, complete with floating cars, universal basic income, and affordable healthcare for Americans who committed the unpardonable sin of not growing obscenely wealthy, will arrive by then. The rich will get richer, the poor poorer, and everyone will be more distracted than ever before. Each of us will spend 90% of our waking time glued to our smartphones.

Okay, so let’s skip the political and economic scene. We can hope that things haven’t gone entirely Mad Max by then.

With what does that leave us to speculate? Culture? Entertainment?

The good news? Everything will be entertainment in 2031. Binge-watching seasons will be so commonplace we will hardly remember when we first wondered about the mental health of someone who had confided in us they had powered through three seasons in one weekend.

Bit of bad news for the readers and writers.

By 2031, books will be an antiquated relic of the past.

I’m just kidding! That happens in 2024. The election that year proved too stressful for everyone on both sides. In the end, everyone ended up an addict, some to alcohol or drugs, etc. More, however, just threw in the towel on fighting the fragmented consciousness state one gets when one never dwells over 1-2 minutes on any single activity or pursuit.

Oh, there will still be books. Bibliophiles will still have their hoarded stacks, of course. And a publishing house may survive here and there; anything with a reading time exceeding two minutes will be considered too intimidating for most who will have grown accustomed to the dopamine/serotonin hits from flitting from app to app. Flitting through however many social media platforms we will have in ten years. My guess is it will settle at a sustainable seven or eight or explode exponentially with new sites arising and passing away every week.

But books will be antiquated by 2031.

Disheartening – isn’t it?

But can anyone act surprised?

I grew up with books. I was born on the tail end of the baby boomers, so I didn’t see the first computers until I was almost out of high school. And those were clunky, cumbersome machines with few applications other than games, and they all operated in stand-alone mode. There was no internet in the 1970s and 1980s.

I graduated from college in 1984, and even that was over twenty years before I would break down and buy my first smartphone.

Since I didn’t have twelve thousand things vying for every single second of my attention, I read. I did other things as well, but the thing that brought me the most absorption and pleasure was reading. To lose myself in a wonderful book. To laugh with and cry for the protagonist, to immerse myself so deeply in the action I could see it as well as if I were at the movies.

I grow old; I grow old… sigh.

I’m now my grandparents talking about the ‘good ole days.’ Could anything be more sadly predictable than the inevitable changing of the guards?

The only way for books to survive to see 2031 is for enough of us to ensure that it is a financially viable plan for the publishers to continue making money.

That means buying AND reading books now.

Please prove me wrong. Please! I’ll be happy to retract this in 2031.

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