E-books have been in the pipeline for years, but it's only in the past two years that dedicated e-book reader devices have gone on sale. While plenty of PCAdvisor.co.uk users tell us they're perfectly happy with physical novels, others are enthusiastic about carrying their entire library on a gadget that's not much larger than a Puffin Classic.
For committed bookworms, it's easy to see the appeal of a device that can store hundreds of books, along with a few MP3 albums. And if you're worried about batteries, it should last until you return from your week in the sun before needing a recharge.
Sony has met success with its Reader device, while a great deal of interest surrounds Amazon's recently updated Kindle, which is yet to launch in the UK.
The Kindle has a page-turning function that makes it feel as though you're flicking through the pages of a traditional paperback novel. There's even a text-to-speech function: simply plug in your headphones, ?sit back and listen.
Of course, e-book readers don't come cheap - Sony's Reader starts at £200. But if you've got a portable music player, you can still enjoy audiobooks without forking out a pile of cash. Apple offers everything from classic Dickens and Bronte to current bestsellers in its iTunes Store. These can then be enjoyed on a PC, iPod or iPhone.
A number of websites allow you to download audiobooks that are in the public domain, which means there's no copyright. Such files may need to be converted to a format compatible with your portable player, however; software from Roxio and Nero can help with this.
Alternatively, you can create your own audiobooks using text-to-speech software. A number of free programs enable you to convert text documents into an audible MP3 or WAV file. Although the single-file result isn't as polished as that of commercial software, you can create chapters by converting each section of text individually.
Create an audiobook with Roxio Creator 2009
1. We've used Roxio Creator 2009 (£49, roxio.co.uk) for this walkthrough, but you can install any software that's capable of converting a CD or audio files. In Creator 2009, first open the Music-Audio tab, then select ‘Create Audiobooks' from the Edit and Transfer menu.
2. Choose whether you want to rip your audiobook from CD or files you've downloaded to your PC. For CDs, insert a disc and wait while Roxio rips the audio and adds it to your library. For downloaded files, you'll be presented with a familiar Explorer window; simply select the files you want to import and press ok.