/ Technology

Why I’ve turned the page on ebooks

Reading an ibook in iPad

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!


As an avid bookworm, I have been toying with the idea of an e-reader for the last few months and keep going backwards and forwards to the idea. I even checked the price of some ebooks to see if I could convince myself of it being more economical. I AM convinced on the environmental side but can’t presently balance cost of e-reader with little apparent reduction in cost of book purchase.
If only I understood Twitter I could perhaps at least attempt to win one in the Which competition!


I tried a couple of office e-readers for the first time last year, for a few weeks, and really enjoyed them. I enjoyed downloading and reading the newspaper on it in the morning on the train.

I too consider the environmental impact of paper books – at the moment I mostly buy second hand, then give them away to charity/sell them on.

I expect that if ebook readers come down a little more in price, I’d be seriously considering buying one. Especially if the digital edition of my favourite daily newspaper comes down a bit in price also and quality is improved (at the moment I believe it is a significantly cut-down version).

Simon says:
2 November 2010

I’m currently planning to buy a Kindle – mostly for all those books I want to read but don’t want to find a place for in my house. And with lots of classics available for free, there are lots of things out there to read that won’t actually cost me any money.

I am disappointed to find however that the only periodical I read regularly, the Economist, actually costs slightly more to subscribe to on Kindle than it does for the paper version. I think many consumers would find that hard to comprehend.

(Also, please correct the text of the article from ‘bought to life’ to ‘brought to life’, please please please, I’m a stickler, thank you)


Thanks for spotting that Simon – that one slipped by, though we hope such errors are rare!

Colin says:
2 November 2010

Like many, I have followed the evolution of e-book readers and am tempted by the technology. However, I still need more convincing of the advantages over the traditional book.

Books are not format dependant unlike ebooks. In your article you transfer from one Apple product to another. I can read a book, pass it to my partner or friends and not worry about DRM or if they have the correct reader.

Cost of books is still too high. Like all new technology, early adopters will always pay a premium and then as the market expands the prices will fall. I will wait a while.

One of my other gripes is for all book-worms. If you like to read a lot, then I guess many would either buy and circulate used books which is good your pocket, charities, small businesses and the environment.
I like to support the local library (after all I pay taxes to keep them going) and if the publishers would come up with a framework for e-books that can be loaned out, this would make me seriously consider these devices.


We have just invested in a new Kindle. Our initial impressions are positive. The readability of the screen is outstanding. There’s a plethora of free books available – though eBooks need to be converted for the Kindle, the software utility for doing this has a simple interface and works really fast.

We’ve not had it long enough to be really subjective, but the only downside we have found at the moment is the click when turning pages – really no louder than turning the page of a book, but somehow it seems a little intrusive to the peace and quiet preceding sleep! Perhaps we will get used to it.


I love reading and this definitely on my Christmas list for myself and my son. I am using kindle on my pc at the moment. This will encourage children to read more also.

George Allen says:
2 November 2010

I moved to reading on a Palm to a Sony Reader to an iPad – and can’t praise the iPad highly enough!

While I’ve bought from the iBook store, I’ve also converted my Sony books and downloaded free from sites like Gutenburg (you can add cover images in iTunes!) so now there are, um, several dozen books available on my iPad…which is great. I also enjoy reading more than one book at a time, and switching takes seconds – with no chance of mislaying a book!

From my experience, as an ebook reader, the iPad rocks – and, of course, it does other things too!

Mike Swift says:
2 November 2010

Me too. My experience too – from sceptic to devotee. BUT there is so much more, such as instant checking back on characters etc, instant dictionary for recondite words, and a quick tap away from maps to relate to locations. Also reading in bed without the need for lighting.

A truly amazing experience that has re-ignited my love for books

Sophie Gilbert says:
3 November 2010

Are ebooks and downloads VAT-free? If not they should be.

Chris yates says:
5 November 2010

I have been using a Sony PRS 505 since 2008. It is particularly useful for holidays when the need to transport lots of reading material – books are heavy – has gone. Easy to use, easy to download and easy to read. It is amazing that I can hold 185 + books in one hand, and there are increasing sources of free downloads. I only buy digital books now.


I bought a Kindle some weeks ago and I can honestly say it has revolutionised my reading. The interface is superb, it’s possible to ‘sample’ books prior to purchase, free of charge, and of course there are all those ‘added benefits’ of digital systems, not least the ability to download at 3.00am if that’s what takes your fancy.

I like the fact that I can dictate text size too. Amazon says it is currently working on the question of allowing borrowing. I hope it will also look at gifting – at present, it isn’t possible to buy Kindle downloads for friends, which I think is a major drawback. I don’t see e-books replacing paper books, but I can no reason why they can’t co-exist. For me, it’s about space as much as anything. I have a (tiny) house which groans under the weight of my books, so being able to create a ‘supplementary’ library as it were is a major bonus.

Ebooks are not VAT free and I’m sure not where that distinction comes from, but no doubt someone with the necessary expertise will provide the answer.

Wendy says:
5 November 2010

I was against a Kindle on the grounds that I wouldn’t be able to lie in a hot bath relaxing while reading – but now wonder if there isn’t room for both formats in everyones life a book that can happily fall into the water (and I mean paperbacks) and left to dry draped over the radiator and the Kindle to pop into a bag loaded up with all the ‘expensive’ books for those journeys on the bus/train/plane/boat while commuting to work…can I have one please???!!!!!!