English novelist Nick Hornby on eBook readers

Over at Penguin Books' official blog, there's a surprisingly excellent little post by English novelist Nick Hornby, in which he level-headedly points out all the little niggling problems that face ebook readers in gaining mass acceptance. Some of the points are elegantly restated tropes of the anti-ebook argument ("Book lovers love books as a form of medium, where as music lovers are ambivalent to CDs and only really were ever passionate about vinyl"), but this is probably the depressing standout point:

The truth is that people don’t like reading books much anyway: a 2004 survey of two thousand adults found that thirty-four per cent didn’t read books at all. The music industry’s problems are many and profound, but you never see advertisements asking us to listen to more music; there are no pressure groups or government quangos attempting to ensure that we make room in our day for a little Leona Lewis. The problem is getting people to pay for music, not getting people to consume it. Can you see every teenager in Britain harassing their parents for a Kindle? Me neither.

I assume ebook readers will eventually reach mainstream ubiquity, but reading books on them will not be the primary function: they will simply be mobile internet tablets with the ability to read books. In fact, the Kindle itself (the most successful eBook reader) is already a prototype for that device. Until ebook readers are only incidentally ebook readers, we're not going to see mass acceptance... and book lovers will always prefer the tactility and smell of leafing through a volume.

Nick Hornby on eBooks [Penguin Blog]

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