This morning’s Observer column.

At first sight, it seems magical. At a stroke, all those tiresome gatekeepers – those self-important agents, editors and publishers who stood between you and recognition – are abolished. Suddenly, the world can see your hitherto unrecognised talent in all its glory. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Er, up to a point. This ebook technology has proved so successful that Amazon now claims to be selling more electronic publications than conventional printed ones. The company is clearly surfing a wave. According to one industry expert, for example, nearly 2.8 million non-traditional books, including ebooks, were published in the United States in 2010, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out. That compares with 1.33 million ebooks and 302,000 printed books in 2009.

Impressive, eh? It’s only when one peruses the cornucopia of literary productions available on the Kindle store that one detects the first scent of rodent…