Ereaders most probably will not replace books

There is growing excitement about ereaders at the moment. Amazon’s version, the Kindle, has been an unexpected hit in America, and there is talk of it reaching the “tipping point” of mainstream acceptance. Last year it accounted for six per cent of Amazon’s sales of titles available in both print and electronic format, and growth is likely to be rapid.

The New York Times recently quoted Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, as saying its sales of electronic books will more than double this year compared with last year, after growing 40 per cent between 2006 and 2007. David Shanks, the chief executive of Penguin Group USA, said his company sold more electronic books in the first four months of 2008 than in all of last year.

Booksellers are worried, but you can see the advantages for publishers – all that investment in printing presses, warehousing and distribution suddenly becomes unnecessary, and books need never be unavailable. Some advantages for readers are obvious, too – you can buy books instantly and take 100 of them on holiday without any weight problems.

My ereader came preloaded with classics such as War and Peace and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and almost anything out of copyright can be downloaded free. If you come across an unfamiliar word, you can look it up instantly in a downloaded dictionary.