With the arrival of the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers, could we be waving goodbye to the traditional paperback? I previously dismissed ebooks, but now you can officially call me an e-reader convert.
How times change. Back in July, I came out squarely against ebooks. I predicted that the humble printed word would show up ebook readers as expensive, awkward devices.
Ebooks were, I concluded, merely novel – but no replacement for the novel itself.
But now I’m on a different page, with my last 10 book purchases being digital renditions of their now outmoded print ancestors. And while some arguments still favour the printed book (cheap, sharable, lightweight and without batteries) I’m now a convert to the ebook cause.
Browsing ebooks by day and night
So why have I turned over a new electronic leaf? I’ve bought several novels for my iPad using Apple’s iBook store – Stephen King’s Under The Dome, and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (excuse my literary taste).
I browsed and downloaded both from the comfort of my bed at midnight – a boon, as bookstores aren’t typically open at that time of night, and there’s certainly none that can be browsed wearing pyjamas. Downloads were instant, and the pricing reasonable.
The reading experience was also sublime, but it was the added technological advantages that swung it. After reading until the early hours, I opened the same book on my iPhone for my commute to work and was amazed to find that it automatically remembered where I was on my iPad, opening the book to the same page.
Seamless reading across devices means I can pick up either my iPhone or iPad and continue without flicking through to find my place – the equivalent of digitally folding down the corner of a page.
Ebooks are inspiring kids to read
But the bulk of ebooks purchased have been for my kids. The astonishing Dr Seuss books (think Green Eggs And Ham) and the wonderful Alice In Wonderland are brought to life in a breath-taking way.
Stories can be read, words touched, pictures interacted with – all adding a richness to the story that simply can’t be achieved with paper and glue alone. My six-year-old was captivated reading along, playing games, and doing something amazing – falling in love with reading.
There’s also a growing section of free books. From fledgling authors to out-of-copyright masterpieces that retain the same magic as the printed version. Access to thousands of free books is a tremendous democratisation of the printed word.
On a tour around Which? I’ve found a bunch of people using e-readers – from Amazon Kindles to iPads, Sony Readers to laptops. And I’m sure the trees are thanking ebook buyers as well.
Much like Last.fm broadened my exposure to new music, I’m now stalking the virtual aisles of Apple’s iBook store at all times of the day. My conversion may be a small footnote in the history of ebooks, but the future of e-readers could well prove to be a blockbuster over the coming years.
If Matt has convinced you that ebooks are the way forward and you’re ready to dive straight into e-readers, we’re giving away a 3G Amazon Kindle in our first Which? Conversation competition. Make sure to enter by Monday 8 November 2010 – and good luck!