The e-book phenomenon

The Times asked me to write a piece about the e-book phenomenon, so I did. Sample:

Two factors will limit the size of the e-book market. One is that reading substantial amounts of text on a screen is a masochistic, headache- inducing experience that makes one appreciate the merits of paper: high resolution and low power consumption; great portability and infinite flexibility. And it will still function after you’ve poured a cup of coffee over it.

The other reason e-books won’t become dominant is that they usually embody tiresome “digital rights management” (copy-protection) systems. Publishers love DRM because it gives them control. Consumers hate it because it takes away time-honoured freedoms. If you buy a printed book, for example, you can resell it, lend it to a friend or donate it to the school jumble sale. But the licensing and DRM provisions on many e-books remove these freedoms. The e-book does not “belong” to you: all you have is a licence to use it in ways that have been approved by the publisher…

At the end of the piece I am described as “a commentator on the internet”, which is a bit grand. All references to the Observer have mysteriously disappeared!