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E-books popularity on the rise -

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E-books popularity on the rise

Broadcast: 18/03/2010

Reporter: Deborah Cornwall

Demand for the virtual book has gone vertical in the past year - fuelled by the recent global
release of Amazon's Kindle Book - and next month's world wide launch of the much hyped Apple Ipad.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: In the past decade there's barely been an industry left untouched by the
virtual tsunami that is the Internet.

You can now add books to the list.

The prospect of the electronic or eBook has, until now, been met with fierce resistance by
publishers and book lovers alike.

But in the past few months publishers around the world have realised, like the music and movie
industries before them, that if they don't go digital they don't survive.

With predictions that up to 50 per cent of books will be sold in digital form in the next decade,
the way we read books may be about to change, forever.

Deborah Cornwall reports.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: It's been our cultural bedrock for more than four centuries, but not
even the book can escape the juggernaut that is the Internet.

MARK PESCE, DIGITAL CONTENT CONSULTANT: Everything else you can think of, any other medium
particularly music and movies, they've all become bytes, they've all become digital. The book has
stood alone and it seems 2010 is the year when we actually see the seachange.

STEVE JOBS, APPLE COMPUTERS: Now, something very exciting.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Demand for the virtual book has gone vertical in the past year, fuelled by the
recent global release of Amazon's Kindle Book and next month's worldwide launch of the much hyped
Apple iPad.

STEVE JOBS: Tap on it and buy this book, and the book downloads right onto my bookshelf like that.

MARK PESCE: It's amazing where eBooks are going. We are delivering bodice-ripping romances into
Iran.

(Laughter)

We're moving Pride and Prejudice into Afghanistan, like these books are showing up everywhere.

I suspect that by about 2020, so about 10 years from now, about 50 per cent of all book sales in
most major markets will be eBook sales.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: After years of stubbornly resisting the e book, publishers are now desperately
scrambling to go online, because like the music industry before them, they've suddenly realised
they have just two choices go digital, or die.

STEPHEN PAGE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, FABER AND FABER: We have to make everything available that way and
we have to start now.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: While digital books currently make up between 6 to 7 per cent of the market in
the US and Britain, more than half those sales are made within the first 24 hours of a book's
release. And industry insiders say those sales are lost forever if publishers delay digital release
to flog their hardbacks first at a premium price.

STEPHEN PAGE: To think that actually making digital books is about having three hairy people in the
basement with laptops doing another thing called digital while the rest of us carry on with the
beautiful business of sewing and binding our books, that is an absolutely impossible universe.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Over the next few months, a whole raft of new e reading devices are expected to
hit the market, each one offering ever more seductive features than the next.

STEPHEN PAGE: I think we underestimate the degree that amazing new technology persuades people to
do things afresh. I would not have said I was particularly interested in owning a device that I
wander around with a pair of headphones listen to music, but I have 28 days of music on my iPod and
I listen to it when I'm moving anywhere.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But for all the boosterism around the brave new world of the e book, Australian
publisher Louise Adler says one of the biggest disappointments so far has been the very limited
catalogue of books on offer, most of them aimed squarely at an American audience.

LOUISE ADLER, PUBLISHER, MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY PRESS: If you're a reader of romance or historical
novels you might find it satisfactory, but in the main, you find it rather disappointing that most
contemporary fiction and nonfiction is not available.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Louise Adler says the problem is due in part at least to publishers' resistance
to the world's biggest digital book seller Amazon and its attempts to cap the price of all e books
below US$10, but she says online retailers have also failed to give readers enough information
about the books they're buying.

LOUISE ADLER: If I want to see a blurb for the book, if I want to understand what I'm buying,
you're probably getting about two sentences. It's actually a very impoverished reading experience
when, in fact, everything tells us that readers are looking for an enriched experience.

They're not looking for less, they're looking for more information.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Curiously, the biggest demand for the virtual book so far has not been from the
usual suspects -the digital natives - but rather the most ardent readers of all, middle aged women.

MICHAEL TAMBLYN, KOBO e-BOOKS: Who would have ever thought that ageing, squinting boomers were
helping to drive a new market for e books?

CANDACE GRAY, KINDLE OWNER: I've got a phone which has a camera on it. I forget and I never even
use the camera. You know, I don't know how to Skype, I don't know how to blog, and once I found
what I could do with this Kindle, then I couldn't put it down.

(to daughter) That's cool, hey?

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Sydney nurse Candace Gray was one of the first to get an Amazon e book, the
Kindle, when it was released in Australia last year. Her husband bought it for her in the hope it
might drag her into the digital age, and save on book costs.

MR GRAY: Let's have a look how many books mum's bought this month.

CANDACE'S DAUGHTER: Yeah!

DEBORAH CORNWALL: What he didn't anticipate was the instant appeal of Kindle's online book store.

CANDACE GRAY: I think it's backfired on him just a little bit, 'cause I've read three books in
about less than a month and I probably only read a book or two in a month. Also, I've discovered
there's a shopping catalogue there and I quite enjoy being able to shop instantly like that.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Candace Gray says it's also changed the way she reads. She now dips into a book
in shorter bites throughout the day.

CANDACE GRAY: It's like having a book shop in the palm of your hands. I don't watch television
anymore.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Local libraries are also gearing up for a dramatic transformation in reader
habits once e books go mainstream.

MARK PESCE: Librarians have gone from being perhaps the dullest professions to one of the most
interesting professions in the space of about the last 15 years and they really are thinking hard
about what happens to the book when it's just completely become digital.

VALERIA GRYADUNOVA, RANDWICK CITY LIBRARY: This is our digital library website.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: One in every two Australians are signed up library members, with some libraries
already offering digital books that can be borrowed directly from our home or office computer.

E books can be taken out at any time and automatically disappear off your screen once the loan is
up.

VALERIA GRYADUNOVA: There are no late fees, there are no overdue books and it's also very
convenient for the customers, because digital library's open 24-7.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: In the end, it will be who has control of the content, not the reading device
that will determine the winners in this race. Apple's iPad is now poised to take on Amazon's
Kindle, with Internet giant Google snapping at their heels. But few would dare predict just what
the future holds for booklovers in the next few years.

LOUISE ADLER: I think there's a sense of panic. You know, I've got a bookshelf full of Penguin
Classics of 19th century novels because I adore 19th century female novelists and I don't feel I'm
going to have to junk them.

I think they're books you're going to want to love and to hold and to have and to store on your
bookshelf and I think that feeling is never going to go away.

MICHAEL TAMBLYN: We've had books longer than forks. Books should not become more sterile or less
engaging if we do this properly.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Deborah Cornwall with that report.