If ever proof were needed that ebooks are here to stay it is the news that several libraries in the UK (Luton Library in the picture) are making a success out of lending electronic books. Apparently the take up is very encouraging and some libraries are even considering making ebook readers, such as the Sony Reader or the iRex Iliad, available to members who cannot afford their own. It's a compelling argument that electronic readers are ideal for older people because the font size can be zoomed so that anyone can achieve a comfortable reading experience.
These library ebooks expire after 14 days but, presumably, can be re-borrowed if you are a bit slow and have a couple of dozen pages still to go. Tellingly, they don't suffer from wear and tear, nor are they liable to be stolen. I see a great future for this and when my local library installs the necessary software I will be first in line for the latest best-seller.
I am more than ever convinced that ebooks are the future and that one of the latest models, such as the Sony Touch Edition, is a strong buy. Some computer-industry pundits scorn the current crop of readers because they are single-function devices when the world is moving towards convergence. The iPhone is a true convergence machine, offering a touch of everything from email to book reading. The much-rumoured tablet, too, will be a better book reading device. However, both suffer from the backlit screen that uses lots of battery power. Readers such as the Sony are basically one-horse machines, but they are compact, light and offer a true replacement for a paperback.
Eventually I believe we will see convergence of phone, tablet and reader, but we need some advances in battery longevity before it becomes a reality. I can certainly see the advantages of reading from a computer-like illuminated screen rather than relying on ambient light as with current readers. For the moment, though, the Sony and its competitors do offer a viable and enjoyable reading experience.