I love books. We have a room full of them, and I can't imagine life without the printed page. But when I got my iPad in May, I saw the potential. I read a sample of Peter Mandelson's The Third Man autobiography on a flight to San Francisco last month, and loved the way I could increase font size and backlighting. It was so much more appealing than reading books on my old Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC in 2001.
I really wanted to splash out on a few e-books for my iPad. I would have bought the full version of Mandelson's book, despite my contempt for the man's politics and love of the rich and famous. But I was unwilling to pay more for the e-book than I would have paid for the hardback. (Interestingly, three weeks later the Apple title is now priced at £12.99 - identical to Amazon's price for the hardback, but still far more expensive than Amazon's £9.99 price for the Kindle e-books version.) And Apple's iBooks store is so empty of compelling titles that I always leave it without buying.
Apple has to cut book prices to have any hope of doing for publishing what it did for music with iTunes. Music was a far easier conquest: a 99p music track was a compelling product, compared with buying a CD single, ripping it to your PC and sharing it with your iPod. (Let alone spending hours making a compilation tape to use on your car stereo or Walkman.) Amazon gives us a vast range of printed books at low cost, with next day delivery, while eBay offers a similarly amazing service, especially for out of print titles. I can't imagine a mass market developing for e-books while the devices and the titles remain expensive.