Could Sony’s Reader Kill Off The Paperback?

Posted on: 19 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

An electronic book reader capable of storing 160 tomes including classics by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen has been launched in the UK.

The Sony Reader could throw the future of the traditional book into doubt.

It’s smaller than a hard-back and has a battery life equivalent to 6,800 page turns - enough power to read War & Peace five times.

In an age where children are more interested in having an iPod than the complete works of Shakespeare, leading publishing houses are offering downloadable versions of titles by authors from Delia Smith to Ian McEwan in an attempt to attract younger audiences.

By connecting the Sony Reader to their home computers, customers will be able to have a choice of tens of thousands of ebooks to download from the Waterstone’s website at prices that could be cheaper than print versions. They include classics such as Great Expectations by Dickens and Pride & Prejudice by Austen.

The rise of the so-called “ebook” has divided the publishing world, with some predicting “the death of the book” and others arguing that the traditional printed version will remain the favoured choice amongst readers, especially when holidaying.

Toby Young, the author of How To Lose Friends & Alienate People believes the ebook could revolutionise the book world.

“The great thing about electronic books is that in the long run they will benefit writers, creating an easier way to enable first-time authors to get their work in front of the public. That will be a revolutionary change,” he says.

“I think if they’re easy to use the ebook could certainly take off.”

However, Marie Phillips, who wrote Gods Behaving Badly, said that rumours of the traditional book’s death had been greatly exaggerated.

“It really all depends on the technology,” she says.

“If I can turn a page or flick back to a section faster with paper, why would I get an electronic book reader? It’s really expensive and I don’t see what it adds. I also love to be surrounded by books and be able to scan all the ones I have on my shelves.”

Daniel Crewe, the editorial director of Profile Books, also doubted whether electronic book readers would sound the death knell for traditional books.

“People like to hold and feel books, gives them as presents, see them on their shelves and so on - and a book makes a difference to the reading experience in a way that downloaded songs don’t,” says Crewe.

“The devices will become more attractive, especially if Apple produces one, and probably cheaper, and people will get more accustomed to them, but I think what’s most likely to happen is that some people will sometimes use ebooks - probably when travelling - and sometimes traditional books, similar in a way to choosing to watch a film either on DVD or at the cinema.”

The £199 Sony Reader is now readily available in more than 200 Waterstone’s stores.

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Sony's Reader


Would you ditch your paperback copy for an ebook? Would you buy a Sony Reader for nearly £200? Will the ebook spell the end for the traditional hardback?

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