Books Will Soon Be Obsolete in the Schools

Thomas Edison? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Ebooks have surged in popularity since Amazon introduced the Kindle and Apple released the iPad. Some futurists believe that paper books will be phased out and replaced by electronic books. But I came across a fascinating false prediction made by the most important innovator of the previous century:

Books will soon be obsolete in the schools. – Thomas Edison

Is this quote accurate? What was the larger context?

Quote Investigator: These words are very close to a phrase that was reportedly spoken by Thomas Edison in 1913. Edison pioneered the development of machines for displaying motion pictures, and he was confident that these devices would be used extensively to help teach students. Here is the pull-quote that was displayed adjacent to an interview with Edison published in The New York Dramatic Mirror in July 1913 [NDTE]:

Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye.

The interview article was part of a series of stories in the newspaper about the “Evolution of the Motion Picture”. The well-known Wizard of Menlo Park was asked to speculate about the future.

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