According to the latest BookTrends report by publishing researchers Ipsos-NPD, two-thirds of US online buyers have heard of eBooks but only one in four are giving much thought to buying one. The situation in the UK is similar.

"People are still choosing to read stories on paper over computer screens," said a spokesperson at publishers Penguin. "It is more to do with choice than with problems accessing technology. People find it easier to read from a page as it's less taxing on the eyes."

But the survey revealed that one in five US youngsters were much more likely to choose an e-book than adults.

"Online users now don't want to give up paper books, but with young people growing up on computer games, reading electronically should become second nature," said Barrie Rappaport, senior accounts executive for Ipsos.

"The growth of eBooks gives children who perhaps cannot get to a library the opportunity to sit at home and read their favourite novels, but they wont replace paperbacks until they are as portable," said a spokesperson at the DfEE (Department for Education and Employment). "Kids can get out in the fresh air, which has to be better than sitting in front of a monitor."

Ipsos found one of the main factors deterring readers was price. An average book was found to be about a third cheaper than its online counterpart.

"Books are extremely affordable and can be shared quite easily," said Penguin. "Extra cost may put parents off. But a growth in popularity may see the price of eBooks dropping."