Ms Matthews is one of the first wave of Britons catching on to "electronic books", or "e-books", hand-held computers able to store hundreds of novels at once and designed to be read anywhere. Battery-powered and with a backlit screen, her 3Com PalmPilot is the start of a change that could affect both how we read books, and how they get published.
"I suppose I might have looked weird reading it on the Underground, just sitting there," said Ms Matthews. "It felt weird reading in bed in the dark. But I can see it catching on."
The principal difference she noticed about reading The Angels of Russia, which she received as an e-mail sent by the Web publisher Online Originals, was that she was never sure how close she was to the last page. She still doesn't know if it was a long book.
"You get to the end of chapters, but it's hard to get a concept of where you are in the whole book. Actually, that added to the fun. Sometimes when you're reading a [paper] book you know you're getting to the end. With this it just finished. And I really liked it."
About 1.6 million PalmPilots have been sold, and more "e-books" will hit American shops within weeks, arriving in Britain next year. They are essentially stripped-down computers, idealised for reading text and graphics. Their displays are usually black and white and prices range from $300 (pounds 185) to $1,500 (pounds 940), weights start at 20oz (0.5kg) and sizes as small as a paperback.
For some paper-oriented publishers the dream of electronic books may prove a nightmare. Authors can sell directly to readers over the Internet, cutting out the middlemen of publishers, editors, printers, distributors and bookshops.
But one trail-blazer, Online Originals, a "virtual company" that exists only on a laptop computer and a Web site, acts as a publisher for first- time novelists. You can sample a book via its Website (www.onlineoriginals.com). For pounds 4, you can buy the content of any. Words and pictures will be e- mailed as a file to be read on a normal PC or a PalmPilot.
The company's authors then receive half the book's purchase price, a clear advantage over the paper system, where a first-time author might never get any money, despite good sales. Most authors are given an advance only for their subsequent novels.Reuse content