In Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury envisioned a future where society had abandoned literature in favor of watching their screens. According to writer Philip Roth, we're getting closer to that future, and in 25 years, hardly anyone will be reading novels.
Roth has declared the novel all but doomed, saying that within 25 years, its audience will have dwindled to a "cultic" minority, going the way of Latin poetry and similar archaic art forms. The issue, he says, is that books simply can't compete with television and other screen-based entertainment.
He said it was "the print that's the problem, it's the book, the object itself". "To read a novel requires a certain amount of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don't read the novel really. So I think that kind of concentration and focus and attentiveness is hard to come by – it's hard to find huge numbers of people, large numbers of people, significant numbers of people, who have those qualities," he said.
Of course, others don't have such dire predictions for the fate of written literature. Just a few weeks ago, we spoke to writer Cory Doctorow about the future of the novel, and his view was that the web actually increases interest in and access to print novels.