Seems like nary a weekend arts or tech section passes without some form of cheering or dire eschatological predictions about the effect of e-books on the literary world. Run for the hills, Ma! The robots is a-comin’ to done take our pipes and armchairs and put out our cozy fires!!
If we enjoy a book we like to recommend it to others. And we quite like others to see what we are reading, especially if the book reflects well on us. This is where I believe the Sony Reader and other electronic books will come unstuck. (Unless we don’t want people to see what we are reading, of course. If it’s a Jackie Collins, say, or a Dan Brown.)
I’ve thought of a couple more reasons to be suspicious of e-books. First, reading books is a tactile experience. The book has evolved over hundreds of years to be the perfect weight and shape to sit in your hand. Also you associate books with holidays. You associate screens with work.
Second, the Sony Reader, which can store 160 average-length books, is described as the gadget that will do for reading what the iPod did for music. Well what has the iPod done exactly?