For years, spooked by the spectre of Napster and what file sharing did to the music industry, book publishers have sat on their hands rather than develop models for digital delivery. The lack of a viable platform hasn't helped much either. But now the success of Amazon's Kindle and the looming possibility of a tablet computer from Apple -- likely to be a "game-changer" if the iPod is anything to go by -- not to mention demand from readers, has begun to force their hands.
There's little doubt that 2010 will be the year of the e-book. Make what you will of Amazon's e-book sales figures (rumours say they give away copies faster than an ailing broadsheet), but it's clear that the Kindle has broken the e-book into public consciousness. E-book readers are among the most downloaded apps for iPhones. Google Books' digitisation-of-everything project has also put the wind up the entire sector. And the popularity of free file-sharing sites featuring pirated current bestsellers has put paid to publisher's fond hopes that they could hold out for a tightly enforceable digital rights model before entering the digital fray.