Online digital delivery technologies are ubiquitous in most media industries. Music is in the midst of an i-Pod driven paradigm shift, television and movie delivery is being reconfigured and newspaper and magazines are confronting the reality of web-based distribution and what it means for business models and ideas of journalism. In the midst of this change, the book publishing industry remains defiant. Whilst embracing digital production technologies, the vast majority of book content is still delivered as analog objects, printed and shipped the old-fashioned way. This is despite the efforts over the last decade of many technology companies to precipitate a change. Even the latest attempts from corporate giants such as Sony and Amazon (which appear to have solved many of the technical hurdles of electronic reading devices) have so far had little visible impact on the industry and the idea of e-books, apparently remains the domain of geeky early adopters. This paper examines the reality of the e-book market(s), and argues that their broader uptake requires a shift in habits that cannot be driven solely by technological change but is influenced by wider concerns. It explores realms in which e-books have been successful and identifies some factors which have lead to the cultural change required (of both publishers and readers) for this to occur.
Copyright Common Ground and The Author. Article originally published in International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Number 1, pp. 71-76. This version archived on behalf of the author and is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission must be sought from the publisher to republish or reproduce or for any other purpose.