We love physical objects (so much so, that we have a print magazine of our own), but with the competing forces of the Internet and tablet devices, it's no surprise that that book as chief means of information has all but disappeared. There are those (like Jonathan Franzen) who wish to look backwards, but Slate's Michael Agresta has some wise ideas for the future:
Luddites can take comfort in the persistence of vinyl records, postcards, and photographic film. The paper book will likewise survive, but its place in the culture will change significantly. As it loses its traditional value as an efficient vessel for text, the paper book’s other qualities—from its role in literary history to its inimitable design possibilities to its potential for physical beauty—will take on more importance. The future is yet to be written, but a few possibilities for the fate of the paper book are already on display on bookshelves near you.
Agresta goes on to outline the enduring quality of books -- that they may simply be easier as a material prescence (think airport paperbacks), they allow permutations in terms of presentation such as Tree of Codes pictured above, they may evolve into "artist's books" as sole expressions of physicality. All of these may be true and all of these are completely relevant for those who love board games.
Perhaps they don't know it yet, but board games could face a similar fate as books. They exist now in digital forms and the lugging around a kit for Settlers of Catan may not be as easy as syncing iPads. But this also presents a profound opportunity for designers and artists to step in and not only embrace board games' physical nature, but create new design-centric experiences. Let's hope that's what the future holds -- or at least something close to Agresta's prediction:
The next generation of paper books will likely rival the art hanging beside them on the walls for beauty, expense, and “aura”—for better or for worse.