Jeff Bezos vs George Walkley

Jeff Bezos vs George Walkley

Not literally of course, but recent comments by the founder of Amazon.com and Hachette UK's head of digital make plain that we are already at a cross-roads in how we publish digital books.

In the red corner stands Jeff Bezos who believes that the Kindle is the ultimate reading device because it allows the reader to immerse themselves in the narrative. The device, says Bezos, should literally "vanish".

"The book is not really the container for the book. The book itself is the narrative. It's the thing that people create. . . So when you're reading a physical paper book, you're not thinking about the ink and the glue and the stitching. All of those things vanish so you can focus on the author's words. The Kindle's designed to be the same so when you're reading, the whole device vanishes, so that you're left with the author's world."


In the blue corner we have George Walkley, recently profiled in these very pages, speaking to my former colleague Alison Flood in the Guardian at the weekend for a piece on how book apps are changing the nature of bestsellers.

"Anyone can replicate the experience of reading a physical book in an app. Our feeling is that just isn't very exciting. With Iain Banks and Martina Cole we've tried to provide added value and extra material for authors who have very passionate followings."

I don't have an answer to this. Publishers have been down this route before and there are some who are very skeptical about so-called enhanced books. I'm not one of them. I can see a real value in additional multimedia content done with a willing author which could, if executed well, enhance rather than detract from the narrative. Particularly children's books.

But I'm also pretty sure we shouldn't be worrying too much about books being boring just because they don't have these costly bells and whistles.

Round one to Bezos, but I look forward to seeing the Banks and Cole apps deliver sales as well as publicity.