Will 2009 see mass market adoption of electronic book readers such as the wonder that is the Sony Reader?
For those of us on TechRadar that have had the pleasure of living with a Sony Reader in 2008, we can only hope that the coming years will see these wonderful gadgets find their ways into the hands of the millions of avid readers worldwide.
Robert McCrum, respected literary editor of The Observer, is also a huge fan of the e-book, posing the basic (but fundamentally vital) question this week: "will people carry on buying books?"
"Framed like that, it's a no-brainer," writes McCrum.
ePoetry and human DNA
"Of course we can't stop reading. Of course there'll be a market for books. But what kind of books?" is what McCrum wants to know.
"People who read books will not give up the habit of spending a modest sum on a highly praised new novel or a fine new collection of poems any more than novelists and poets will stop writing fiction or composing verse. The marginal cost of all these activities is comparatively slight, and the passion for narrative, and for poetry – well, it's part of our DNA."
On an even more positive note, McCrum adds that: "Digitisation has yet to affect book consumption, but it will eventually. Ebooks are here to stay."
The "iPod moment" for eBooks
While TechRadar largely agrees with McCrum's assertion that e-readers are currently "the kind of gizmos the trade will use to lighten its load (literally)" and that "the reading public has yet to make the switch" he is surely bang on the money when he claims that "the iPod moment" for books, while it has not yet occurred, is on the near future horizon.
"Again, none of this will be bad for writers. The delivery system will change, but the need for "content" (ghastly term) will be as strong as ever, perhaps stronger: the signs are that we turn to good books for consolation in tough times."
Thank goodness for that then! Books aren't going away. They are just going to get better, cheaper and become far more widely available to greater swathes of humanity than ever before.
Long live the electronic book revolution!
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