The good ship carrying e-books is taking a while to sail into the mainstream but it may gain from a strong wind with Google's announcement that it will put over a million public books into the EPUB format. 

Leaving the vagaries of technology industry politics aside, EPUB is to what e-book readers what PDF is to general-purpose computers, a way to maintain formatting of pages across devices, regardless of vendor and screen size or format. The big setup in hardware is that Amazon is pushing the proprietary AZW format on its Kindle reader while Sony has taken the (more) open road by adopting EPUB for its rival Reader device.

There is also a fight on the platform side. Google's digitisation of the world's library has not been without controversy and has necessitated the formation of an opposition group, the Open Book Alliance. See if you can guess who would be the members here... that's right, it's the Anyone But Google vested interest group, writing under a pseudonym.

I love books and have a gut revulsion against e-ink, e-books, digitisation of classics and so on, but a younger generation than mine might feel differently, preferring to read on devices rather than take pleasure in the texture of stock, various sleeves and edittons, and applaud the practicality and cheapness afforded by that most underrated of platforms -- paper. Certainly the success of the Kindle reder suggests there is a large appetitie for e-books.

However, scanning the long tail of out-of-print works provides huge opportunities for literary rediscovery and for economic remodelling that makes works more accessible to those who might otherwise be priced out of the market. For those who value books, Google's large investment in digital rendering of the bibliophile's world is good news and the success of EPUB is to be desired.