E-read all about it

By Rebecca Camber, Daily Mail

Last updated at 10:35 03 September 2008


Hard-drive back: An avid fan gets to grips with the new eReader

It will undoubtedly open another exciting chapter for the digital era.

This is the electronic book - the same size as your average paperback, but with a 160-novel memory, promising to keep you reading for much longer.

The Sony Reader is being launched in Britain this week by Sony and Waterstone's - and they believe its price tag of £199 should make it affordable to many.

But not everyone will be gripped by its launch. Some doubt that the electronic novel could ever spell the end of the traditional page-turner.

At 9oz, the e-book weighs less than a hardback and has a battery which would probably give you long enough to read War And Peace five times, because it only uses power when you turn a page.

However, its 200-megabyte memory will ensure you do not have to read the same novel over again.

The e-book mimics the pageturning of an ordinary novel. And unlike a computer, there is no glare on the screen. When you switch it on, it brings up the last page you read, and text can be magnified.

Each Sony Reader will be sold with a CD containing 100 books and plays, including Dracula, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations.

Waterstone's has tens of thousands of titles waiting to be downloaded on to the e-book from its website. Buying one will cost about the same as a traditional book.


The device, being launched on Thursday, is not the first e-book to hit the market. Amazon has been selling its Kindle in the U.S. for about £200 and Borders sells its own version, the Iliad, for £399.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has described books as 'the last bastion of analogue'. But authors and publishers are divided on their future.

John Makinson, of publishers Penguin, said: 'There is a broad audience out there for electronic books. To what extent they will be a major alternative to traditional books, we don't know.' By 2010, he predicts e-books will account for 1 per cent of sales.

But Nick Hornby, whose novels include Fever Pitch, is sceptical.

'There is currently much consternation in the industry about the future of the conventional book, but my suspicion is that it will prove to be more tenacious than the CD,' he said. 'Readers of books like books. Music fans never had much affection for CDs.'

A novel experience

There is something magical about the traditional book, writes Rebecca Camber.

The shiny-covered novel you buy soon becomes a well-worn and loved old friend. But the Sony ebook, pictured, is more about function than fun.

Just 4mm thick, it's a neat package in battleship grey, which fits comfortably in most handbags.

The commands are easy to use and the text size can be changed. It can also play music. But for all its practical design, turning a page is slow and cumbersome.

Having to press a button to flick to the next page seems laborious in our touch-screen technology age.

And although it doesn't have the backlit glare of a PC, it's not easy on the eye.

You begin to think that, rather like the onceunwieldy mobile phone, e-book technology has a way to go before everybody buys one.

And at £199, the e-book is not something you could readily lend to a friend - I certainly wouldn't read it in the bath..

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