It is a little bit exciting, I must admit

Michael beat me to it last week, but I wanted to reflect further on the Waterstones / Sony ebook launch last week. Anecdotally, Waterstones store staff report a great deal of interest from customers, and the rumour mills (or well-planned leak??) put a *correction: five* figure number on the Sony Readers sold by the morning of Thursday 4th September. As I’m sure all of those working in the digital publishing departments of trade publishing houses will agree, it’s nice finally to have a major high street bookselling brand pitch itself into the ebook ring so wholeheartedly – and the Sony device is the most compelling (and competitively priced) there is of the dedicated devices so far available here in the UK. I must say it did make my heart leap just a little bit to see huge POS displays promoting the Sony Reader and the associated ebook catalogue from Waterstones in the Tottenham Court Road and Piccadilly branches, and it was fun to go in and do some underground detective work to discover that the Waterstones staff seemed quite clued up about it all.

There has certainly been an uplift on direct sales of ebooks from our own web site over the weekend, although this may well have something to do with our our promotion of eight non-drm’d SF books which started last week. It is also bringing out terrible trainspotting tendencies in me as I find myself wanting to look at our web-based sales analysis tool on a regular basis...

As for the press and publicity; well, the media seems to have gone mad for it, don’t they? Not always in a positive way, but based on the premise that all publicity is good publicity, great timing, Sony and Waterstones! Launching on the back of silly season and given the choice of a piece about a ‘potential revolution in reading’ or another funny animal story, Sony seems to have won every time. However, as Diane Shipley has written on the Picador blog here, it would be nice to see a little more excitement in the media, a little less of the wrinkled noses.

Of course, I still believe the future of books on screen is not going to be dominated by a single, dedicated reading device. I don’t really believe the Sony reader is the killer device or even a killer device, but it’s certainly making an impact on the media and consumer imaginations. And I am becoming quite fond of mine. Reading will no doubt continue to take place across a variety of mediums dependent on the reader’s personal lifestyle, preferred existing gadget(s) and tendency towards paper sniffing – or not.

And now for a little grumble: it would be really, really be nice if you could actually search the Waterstones ebook site by author / title / ISBN / keyword rather than having to browse the category or bestseller pages. Harrumph.