As 'mummy porn' novel Fifty Shades Of Grey becomes the top-selling e-book to date, Hannah Stephenson examines e-reader pros and cons and discovers some more downloadable summer hits
Published 29/07/2012 | 08:00
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Less than two years after they were launched, it's estimated that more than 807m people worldwide own some sort of e-reader - and many will now be downloading a stack of titles to take with them on holiday.
The boom has allowed previously unknown authors to make it big, as has been proved by the phenomenal success of the erotic Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy by E L James, who used the self-publishing arm of Kindle to become the first person to sell more than one million e-books.
Earlier this year publishers scrambled to sign sports journalist Kerry Wilkinson after the runaway success of his self-published e-book Locked In, the first in the Jessica Daniel detective series. The book sold a staggering 250,000 e-books in six months.
His strategy involved selling the first novel at a bargain 98p (the follow-ups cost more), and marketing it using his own website and social media.
Now the backing of publishing giant Macmillan could propel him into the same league as Lee Child and Martina Cole.
The e-reader has come a long way in the last two years, with competition hot among Kindle, Sony, Kobo and others. As well as finding new authors, a number of e-book sellers offer free downloads of classic books which are out of copyright.
It also appears to be changing the genres people are happy to buy. Downloading saucy stories is becoming increasingly popular with women, for example, as the anonymity of the transaction means they are spared the blushes of having to buy a sexy book at the till.
The future of the e-book is undoubtedly rosy (one in 40 adults in the UK received an e-reader for Christmas) but could it ever replace the traditional print book?
Sophie Poderoso, PR manager for Kindle, says: "For some people, it already has, even people who were initially technophobic. It's all about getting you closer to the author's words and enabling people to read more.
"Since Kindle launched, people are reading four times as many books.
"It means there's a real renaissance in reading and that can only be good."
But not everyone is a devotee of the device, as our reviewers demonstrate.