The e-book tipping point

There was a watershed moment for me a couple of weeks ago.

I was re-reading a book I bought many years ago: Melvyn Bragg’s ‘Credo’. Actually, I bought it just after it was published, and so it’s one of those really large-format paperbacks designed to make you feel that you’ve bought something substantial worth the substantial early-adopter price!

But I don’t really like big, heavy books. I do most of my reading in bed late at night, and in that situation I’m primarily after mental rather than muscular stimulation. So I looked – in vain, as it happens – on both Apple’s and Amazon’s stores to see if I could get it in e-book format.

And then it struck me what I had just done.

I’ve really started to value the fact that my e-books are with me all the time on a variety of devices. But here, in addition, I was willing to pay more money to replace a paper book, which I already owned, with an electronic copy, because I thought I would enjoy the reading experience more on my devices than on paper.

That, I felt, was pretty significant…

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I’m hoping that the iPad will reduce greatly in price, or that someone will come out with a lower-priced alternative, so I can read eBooks on a good-sized display.

I don’t have many books which I own in electronic and paper format, but those I do are almost all from Baen books, because the former are available online (as well as in several formats for downloading) thus enabling me to quickly check back-story and cross-check between corresponding stories. Apparently this system has been a massive success for Baen, so you have to wonder why other publishers are quite so slow to follow.

Indeed. I find it disappointing now when a book isn’t available in e-book form, as I’m so much less likely to read it.

Personally I’ve found a similar transition in magazines — particularly weeklies like Amateur Photographer, New Scientist, The Economist and (for my wife, honestly) Hello! — which are increasingly available in electronic form (eg, via Zinio). I enjoy the formats — different from reading the Web site equivalents — but I find myself resenting the clutter of paper and the inconvenience of not being able to dip in when the moment takes me.

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