AH YES, the good ol’ book burning: thousands of blood-thirsty goons gathering around a pile of burning paper, chanting in protest to appease their offended values. While this is a sight unseen for quite some time, the recent announcement of the Apple iPad has spewed forth such a torrent of rage in chat rooms worldwide that one could be excused for thinking another such occasion is on the cards – of the electronic kind.

Although it may remain a curious blend of just about everything, most interestingly this product signals the arrival of the big player to the e-book marketplace.

You see, amongst many other things this iPad ushers in a completely new way of reading electronically. Gone are the days of your standard library and the humble practise of interacting with another person. Entire books can now be purchased and downloaded from the internet and enjoyed on this portable device. Whilst electronic reading tablets have been on the market for some time now, Apple intends to saturate the market much in the same way their iPod revolutionised listening to music for the digital age.

With electronic books, say goodbye to books running out of print and old copies in disrepair. Say hello to an era of eased portability and storage, language translation and less detrimental environmental effects. On the downside, well, with the empty space on your bookshelf soon gathering dust, you’ll have to think of other ways to display your bookworm credentials.

Over two million free books are currently available online, in addition to the many online avenues available for purchasing digital copies. Meanwhile, Google is busying itself digitalising over ten million books, although they only currently own the publishing rights to one tenth of their efforts.

With the introduction of various tablet technologies, it seems that book burnings will be forever confined to cyberspace – unless, of course, people are willing to throw their expensive new electronic reading devices into the fire. Now that’s a revolution.

James O’Sullivan