I think they’re silly, these books that you can’t read in the sun, with batteries you have to recharge and all the other things you have to watch out for, that you can’t read in the bath or at the beach. I think the book is the medium of the future.
Harry Rowohlt, video interview on Zeit Online, 30 July 2009
Although the first commercially published e-book – William Gibson’s novel Mona Lisa Overdrive – hit the shelves in 1988, this paperless form of literature long languished as a niche interest without widespread recognition. In the pioneering years of the internet, digital texts were mostly exchanged online free of charge and without the permission of authors and publishers. At the dawn of the 21st century, the quick, cheap alternative to printing represented by the Portable Document Format (PDF) helped electronic reading take hold, particularly in the areas of science and research. By 2007 this encompassed around a third of all publications in these areas.
Since then the enormous growth of tablet computers, along with the development of proprietary e-book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Weltbild’s Tolino, have led to a huge increase in the sale of electronic books. While the main advantage is the easy access to a comprehensive personal library, bibliophiles point to the decline of the sensual reading experience. In 2015, German sales of fiction alone are expected to reach 350 million euros. Many online portals now include digital versions in their ranges, however they are developing more slowly in Germany than in the English-speaking world.