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Ebooks for the masses? Not just yet

by Giles Turnbull -- 2000/10/23

So, how many ebooks have you read recently? Not that many, right? Right. You and everyone else, all of us love our paper books too much to give up on them yet.

As publishers get together for their annual books bash in Frankfurt, reports claim that they are more confident than ever about the future of paper publishing.

Even though the topic is generating increasingly impassioned discussion, and even though downloading etexts is becoming easier than ever with the growth of pocket-sized computers beyond their established geek-audience niche, the publishers are confident.

Why? Mainly because of hardware technology. They know that no matter how cool and fun it is to read an out-of-copyright classic, or a first-time science fiction short story, on your Palm or Psion or Pocket PC, it's still not as relaxing as reading a book.

Using a hand-held device to read text is still more an act of geek toy pleasure than it is an act of reading. And the publishing industry knows that it still has a good few years yet to grow the audience.

And this is at a time when book sales are soaring. Thanks to Harry Potter, millions of children have become interested in books, and the publishers are (naturally) going to milk that for all they can.

But of course it's these children that will determine future demand. They're the ones who will be adopting new ebook technologies within the next 10 years.

One option for paper publishers will be to make books more than just text - like coffee shops before them, they will try and make the buying of the product into more of a *lifestyle experience*. Buying a book will get you more than just a book, and that will be at a time when ebooks are only just starting to look and feel like the real thing.