Do electronic books threaten the future of traditional publishing?

That is the question that is being asked today and is a headline in a very good article in The Independent because today Waterstone's is offering Sony's e-book reader for pre-order from its stores.

While Borders UK became the first UK retailer to start selling the rival iLiad e-book in May, the Waterstone's launch of the Sony Reader is cheaper at £199. (Borders iLiad is £399.) But will consumers buy an e book reader at this price when they bulk at buying a book for £2.99?

The article lists the pro and cons of e readers citing such things as being heavy and clunky to carry around, expensive and won't survive being dropped on the floor or in the pool like books. People also like passing on books to friends and buying them as presents. Of course the gadget lovers and bookworms will love e readers, and they'll take up less space around the home (but book lovers love to see shelves of books so the e reader will appeal to non book lovers - why then invest in an e book reader in the first place, I ask myself?) maybe because it allows the user to perform other tasks on it. Though don't ask me what that is.

For the publishers who haven't already looked at digital rights and making their authors' work available in e format this might cause some consternation. For authors however, I think it is good news, because whatever format books come in as long as they keep coming and people keep reading then that's great, and as long as the author is paid for his or her intellectual property i.e their work. My novels and business and motivational books are already available as e books. I have a great e book publisher who has also made them available in audio format as downloads - another growth area which I think will be bigger than e books. With so many people listening to music on the go and while they travel, why not listen to a book instead? Most of my sales on both these fronts come from America.

So is the e book the end of the physical book? When television came in everyone said the cinema would die and yet audiences for cinema are bigger than ever. Radio also continues to thrive. When computers came in everyone hailed it as the advent of the paperless office and yet it has created more paper than ever before. And when and if e books take off will it hail the end of the physical book? I think not. They might change, evolve, look different but I'm convinced the book will still be with us. As Marcus T Cicero (January 3, 106 BC - December 7, 43 BC) an orator, statesman, political theorist, lawyer and philosopher of Ancient Rome said: "A room without books is a body without a soul," I'll go with that.


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