Wednesday, 3 February 2010

It’s Such an Effort

I had a conversation the other day which made me realise something – I haven’t read a physical book in a long time, probably over a year.

I’ve been mixing up my reading between e-books and printed books for the better part of the past decade – ever since I discovered stories posted for free on the Usenet, then the website StoriesOnline and now e-books. But I never stopped reading physical books. You couldn’t match their portability and there remains something very special about a printed book – its feel, its smell, its… There’s just something about a book that you don’t get from a computer screen.

Then, back in spring of 2009, I got myself a T-Mobile G1 – a Google Android powered smart phone. It was that or an iPhone and frankly I didn’t like the way that the iPhone was tied to iTunes and found the policy of app approval on the App Store to be a bit… well, not in the spirit of things.

And now, on my trusty little phone (sorry, portable communications device) I have the same, in fact better, portability as a paperback book, I can read in the dark (cause the screen lights up) and I can carry around with me a massive range of books as well as being able to access the whole of StoriesOnline. And so I’ve been reading from my phone almost exclusively.

I’ve had Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals on my bedside table since October but the damn thing just seems so big and bulky and heavy compared to my phone that I haven’t bothered to read it. Yes, I know – I apologise, Terry.

However, I truly believe that this year will be the year that a lot more people discover the ease of reading electronically and that e-books and dedicated e-readers take off. The people holding things back at the moment are the big traditional publishers – who for my money seem to be making all the same mistakes that the record companies made when they first faced the prospect of iTunes and other music download services. The world is changing and they have to adjust their business model with it or they will become irrelevant. Just look at the number of e-publishers that are – not all fly-by-nights either. Look at Phaze, they are celebrating their 5th year.

Don’t be surprised, then, when the best seller lists have to start taking e-book editions of titles into account and don’t be surprised when a book that is only published electronically hits the best seller lists.

Times, as they say, they are a-changing.

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