Monday, April 07, 2008

Unaccustomed as I am...

This evening I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Society of Sussex Authors. It was slightly intimidating talking to a crowd of writers, but they were very welcoming and dutifully laughed at my anecdotes.

I spoke about bookselling, focusing mainly on Waterstone's and gave a very candid account of how bookselling has changed during the last 20 years and concluded by talking about the Amazon Kindle, which I think has the potential to revolutionise the book industry during the next few years.

I never took the E-book that seriously when it first appeared and I'm still not convinced by the Kindle, which has a depressingly grey screen. But it's only a matter of time before the technology is good enough to woo some readers away from the printed page.

If you're a commuter and read thrillers, do you really need a proper book or would it be easier to download the text onto your E-book? And what about students? I doubt whether the romance of the printed page will save the textbook from becoming electronic.

Real books won't disappear, but there may be a growing schism between the book as a work of art and the text as a disposable commodity. I think there will be room for both, but it will be interesting to see how far the E-book encroaches on the territory of traditional booksellers.

1 comment:

John Self said...

I'm unconvinced. It took the iPod for digital music to really take off in a big way and the Kindle is no iPod. The design is horrible - it looks like an Atari console from the 80s - and there's no way of uploading your own existing content to it the way you can put your own CDs on your iPod - and am I right in thinking you have to pay even to subscribe to blogs for it?

But yes, if it takes off anywhere, it'll be in the non-bibliophile market. Obviously there's great potential too for out-of-print stuff to be made available for it (John Christopher, anyone?).