It's too soon to write off the paperback

iPads, apps, e-publishing...When did settling down with a good book become such hard work?

There has been a buzz surrounding Ether Books since it launched at the London Book Fair last month.

Ether has created an iPhone app that lets customers download short stories and other short works onto their phone. Hilary Mantel, whose work appears on the site, is all in favour, suggesting that Ether's publishing model can "reach new readers" and give short fiction a "new and different life".

Short-story collections are notoriously hard for publishers to sell. This way you can just pick out what you want like a music download. Saki's "Down Pens" and Penelope Lively's "The First Wife" would be my first choices from Ether's eclectic and easy-to-search catalogue, which is organised by search categories like "Award Winners", "New Authors", and "Pocket Poems", and allows you to sample the first page of each work. So, as the Ether homepage instructs: "Sit back, sip your coffee and read your favourite author whenever you want and wherever you are."

Sounds good, but when I read those tag lines on e-publishing sites, I can't help but think, I do that already. I don't need help drinking coffee and reading in any given location. I'm rather good at it and have proved that I can do both simultaneously without recourse to technology.

But is this relevant? Digital publishing is going to be huge, of that there is no doubt. At this year's London Book Fair the Digital Zone was bigger than ever and the iPad in all its beautifully designed glory was the major talking point, with large publishers like Penguin and HarperCollins backing it to drive and dominate e-book market growth.

But does digital technology improve the experience of reading, especially reading fiction? Those aiming to make money out of e-book technologies need us to believe that it does. But can e-readers of whatever sort ever escape the whiff of functionality however impressively book-like they are?

Even when reading them for work, paper books and magazines are a refuge from the laptop I'm chained to for hours a day. Reading paper books is an escape from utility, information overload, endless possibility... and my obsessive-compulsive social-networking habits.

There's no doubt that the possibilities of digital are exciting. Just take a look at founded by writer and editor Sophie Rochester if you want an idea of how digital technologies are bringing "the traditional book format to new platforms". There's a lot going on.

But are consumers in danger of forgetting how to enjoy themselves on their own terms? The body language of e-reader users I spotted at this year's London Book Fair didn't exactly suggest relaxation or pleasure. From the lone frowning Kindle-user spotted on the Tube on the way to Earl's Court holding her expensive cargo stiffly on her knees as if any excess movement and the whole thing might blow, to the touch-screen tap-tappings of stressed-out publishers demonstrating book-reading on the iPad by dragging several times (and a little frantically) at the virtual pages to get them over, one can't help thinking that turning a real page would be more enjoyable and stress-free.

Ether's story app is a fantastic way of reaching modern readers in a hurry, and short stories are by their very nature fragments, offering us a glimpse of imagined lives. But is the act of reading becoming a bit too business-like, too practical? I don't think e-book technology will help us to "sit back", relax and enjoy ourselves more.

After all, more choice doesn't make us more content; having the text of hundreds of novels at your fingertips probably makes you less satisfied with the one you're actually reading. Amid all the marketing mayhem, readers should remember they can still decide what makes a reading experience valuable – it's not just up to Steve Jobs.

Anna Goodall is the editor of 'Pen Pusher Magazine' and a bookseller at Clerkenwell Tales in London

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada