Albert Robida was a 19th century French artist and writer of satirical science fiction. I first heard of him last year when I read about him in Maggie Jackson's Distracted. Jackson described some of Robida's surprisingly accurate predictions from his 1882 novel The Twentieth Century, which is the only work of his that's currently in print in English translation. Robida was a contemporary of Jules Verne but is much less known today, at least in the English-speaking world.
I was searching for more information on Robida and came across a short story from 1894 called The End of Books, written by Octave Uzanne and illustrated by Robida. It's a pretty amusing read in light of the ever-present fretting over the death of books, the threat of audio books (see Kindle), and the invention of things called "video books" (see Jeff Jarvis). Uzanne and Robida predict (and to my ears make fun of) this very same stuff. Below is one of Robida's illustrations of a future reader, enjoying a book the modern way -- by listening to and viewing it.
Links to the story and related material:
- The University of Adelaide has an English translation: The End of Books.
- An excellent summary of the story in English by Michael Ward, with links to the French text and illustrations: abstract.
- Gutenberg has the French text and illustrations: Robida. (They have a link to a supposed English version but it's actually the French.)
- An article by Edward Tenner about Robida: "World Greatest Futurist" (see the pdf).