Even though a Japanese publisher is already planning to bring literature - albeit in graphic art form - to the iPhone in the US, that hasn't stopped mainstream publisher HarperCollins attempting to convince people there that reading books on phones is a good idea.

First step on that uphill journey is the launch of a pilot website that allows users of the iPhone to read up to 10 pages from the first few chapters of a book. Technology provided by LibreDigital allows them to adjust the print size, scroll through pages like normal iPhone documents and turn pages just like in real novels.

Pricing is key

At present there are only around a dozen titles to browse, including works by Ray Bradbury and Faye Kellerman. But any full-scale commercial service will see this expand to over 10,000.

Although the current trial is free, future pricing for full books should come in somewhere around the $20 (£10) that existing e-books typically cost.

Whether or not the scheme takes off will rest on getting the pricing right, extolling the virtues of the easy-access virtual pocket library and hoping that readers will be willing to give up paper books in return. While it appears to have already happened in Japan, it's the only country to have made the switch so far.