The electronic age finally came to the UK on September 4 this year. A well-known brand of e-book reader went on sale at a high street bookstore chain. Is it going to revolutionise the way that we Brits read?
That’s an interesting question.
You can get a very cosy armful of conventional books for the electronic reader’s retail price. Probably enough to keep a romance reader happy for five or six months. Will shoppers still prefer to go for print rather than hardware? Vogue magazine has put the reader on its “must have” list, but will most people see it as just a trendy, expensive toy?
There certainly weren't hordes of people lining up behind me when I was prodding the display model, on its special stand, in the centre of my nearest shop, but apparently sales have been very brisk. It would be fun to know who is buying it. Older readers with more disposable income, or strictly the youthful gadget lovers?
I would guess that a lot of people over here don’t realise yet that you can download new and original e-books from the Internet and don't just have to settle for preloaded stuff, or an electronic copy of a conventional paper volume, bought from a bookshop. I admit I assumed that the preloaded texts that come with the reader would be worthy and obscure offerings selected by some sort of academic committee - in other words, a bit boring. I was wrong, because one of those already on the reader is English Lord, Ordinary Lady, from award-winning, Harlequin Mills and Boon author Fiona Harper, so romance lovers are guaranteed at least one excellent read, before they have to put their toe into downloading more.
I think, if you stopped a hundred people on a British street today, not many would know that there are publishing companies that release their output almost entirely in e-book form, and they wouldn't have any idea of the wonderful wealth of titles out there. That may soon change as e-books get more publicity on radio and TV.
So what about the future? Is the e-book reader destined to be shunted into a gadget sideline? I hope not. Me? Yes, of course I want one. I'm saving my pennies. As soon as I can afford it I shall be there, with my money in my hot little in hand. I hope they won't have sold out before I get there.