Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is this the final chapter for paper books?
John Elder -Sydney Morning Herald, September 26, 2010

Graham Cottew (right), reading a book on his i-pad, while his 19-year-old son Tim prefers a paper book. Photo: Ken Irwin

E-books are set to revolutionise the way we read. But plot twists may save paper books from going the way of the dinosaur.

For 15 years, pundits have declared the old-fashioned book to be as doomed as the orang-utan. Just as we will one day have to visit the last of that sad species in a zoo, the dog-eared paperback is destined for a similar freakshow status. Perhaps along the lines of collectable Wedgwood or silver spoons.

It isn't only the smug futurists who hold this view: some of Melbourne's most devoted bibliophiles told The Sunday Age the book is destined to be little more than an ornament as technology increasingly transports Charles Dickens and Dan Brown into the digital age.

If this is true, the local death throes of tree-sourced literature began in May, very quietly, when the Borders website posted the first e-book bestseller list for Australia. For the first couple of weeks, a No. 1 hit meant 20 copies sold. Four months later, Borders Australia and its sister company, Angus & Robertson, have sold more then 100,000 e-books and 20,000 Kobo e-readers, and seen 200,000 e-book applications downloaded free (for iPhone and desktop computer reading) from their websites.

While one rival bookseller queried the Kobo e-reader sales figures, REDgroup, the company that owns Borders and Angus & Robertson, thinks they could have sold more if more of them had been available.
'But for about six or seven weeks we couldn't get [enough] devices into our shops,'' REDgroup communications manager Malcolm Neil says.
''We were just getting orders and managing demand … a huge latent demand.''

Ask local publishers and booksellers what the sales mean for the future of reading and they'll say: ''We don't know yet.''
The full story at SMH.

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