Electronic books never really caught on. The most obvious reason is because glaring at a monitor for long periods tends to cause eye-strain. But another reason is because people read in bed; they read on the train; they read on the loo. And you can’t very well lug your computer to all those places. What about laptops? Of course, but one of those is still not exactly as versatile as a typical paperback novel, is it?
I’ve never been a fan of ebooks. I’ve read two in the past, and at some point in each case, I couldn’t stand the experience and resorted to printing the book out.
However, all that has changed with my recent acquisition of a Pocket PC. I decided to give the ebook phenomenon another whirl, and what do you know, I’m discovering that it’s a great experience. There are probably several factors that have led to my enjoyment. The screen is small, so that your eye isn’t roaming across a wide space and struggling to find the next line of text in sequence; the pixels are so small that they’re practically invisible, making the text resemble an actual page; the device can be taken anywhere, just like a book.
For the past week or so, I’ve really been enjoying my bedtime reading. There’s something atmospheric about being able to read a horror story with all the lights out. (Incidentally, the book I’m reading is David Moody‘s zombie novel, Autumn, soon to be adapted as an audio drama at Darker Projects.) I’d go as far as saying that I actually prefer reading from the Pocket PC than from a physical book.
However, I still don’t think there’s much market potiential for ebooks. For one, not everyone owns a Pocket PC or similar device. And personally, I just feel odd about paying money for bits of data; I feel cheated somehow. Maybe it’s because many books that I buy, I sell on eBay afterwards. And there’s not a lot of resale value in mere data. Besides, I checked out the ebook scene and it’s as DRM-infested as the online music stores.
Sony has recently developed an interesting ebook reading device that uses a new kind of display technology. Check out the Sony Reader. It’s cool, but I imagine it’s going to be one of those niche interest things. Perhaps ebooks will catch on a little more as iPod screens get ever larger. All I know is, I’m hooked.