Monday, October 13, 2008

What Nick Hornby thinks of ebooks

1) Book readers like books, whereas music fans never had much affection for CDs. Vinyl yes, CDs no. They are too small for interesting cover art and legible lyrics, the cases break easily, and despite all promises to the contrary, they are extremely easy to break and scratch. Books have remained consistently lovable for several hundred years now. For readers, a wall lined with books is as attractive as any art we could afford to put up there.

2) E-book readers have a couple of disadvantages, when compared to mp3 players. The first is that, when we bought our iPods, we already owned the music to put on it; none of us own e-books, however. The second is that so far, Apple is uninterested in designing an e-book reader, which means that they don’t look very cool.

3) We don’t buy many books – seven per person per year, a couple of which, we must assume, are presents for other people. Three paperbacks bought in a three-for-two offer – expenditure, fourteen pounds approx – will do most of us for months. The advantages of the Iliad and the Kindle – that you can take vast numbers of books away with you – are of no interest to the average book-buyer.

4) Book-lovers are always late adaptors, and generally suspicious of new technology.

5) The new capabilities of the iPod will make it harder to sell books anyway. How much reading has been done historically, simply because there is no television available on a bus or a train or a sun-lounger? But that’s no longer true. You could watch a whole series of the Sopranos by the pool on your iPod touchscreen, if you want. Reading is going to take a hit from this.

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