Ebooks and You...
It's no surprise to find one of Google's most outspoken critics, Nigel Newton, chairman of Bloomsbury, coyly hinting at 'a very big announcement' in the course of 2006. Newton is certain that 'within seven to 10 years, 50 per cent of all book sales will be downloads. When the e-reader emerges as a mass-market item, the shift will be very rapid indeed. It will soon be a dual-format market.'
That prediction makes a lot of sense. E-books will not replace the old format any more than the motorcar replaced the bicycle, or typewriters the pen.
Digitisation, meanwhile, has become the buzzword. Digitise or die is how Richard Charkin puts it. He is a passionate advocate of the opportunities afforded by the new technology, but he doesn't believe that 'people are going to read novels on the screen in a serious way. Non-fiction is a different genre'. The cutting-edge of e-book innovation lies in the reference and technical book divisions. Here, he says, echoing a widespread perception, 'none of the big general UK book publishers [Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin] has really embraced the new technology.'
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