Actor Rob Lowe

It's funny the small thing that tips you over from being an observer to an enthusiastic participant in the latest fad.

Take ebooks, for instance. I remember when they first came out. The idea that you'd just download a book you'd waited keenly on for a year was laughable.

How could you lend it to your friends as the best novel of the year, or proudly display it on your bookshelf with the rest of the series?

Even if you got the book for free, who'd want to read it on a computer, right?

But iPads have changed everything. And so have cheap book websites that ship to Australia.

The other week I was wandering through Kmart (can you believe they've got rid of the checkouts up front?) and managed to find the new books section.

I had a nostalgic moment, remembering the days I'd go to the store every Thursday after school to buy a romance for $1.96 with my $2 pocket money.

Eighties heartthrob Rob Lowe's latest biography was on display during my latest trip. Love Life (Allen and Unwin, $35, ebook $14) took pride of place at the end of an aisle and my first thought was "a bit soon for the next one".

Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Random House, $20, ebook $10) did only come out in 2011 but it was a cracker. That man has a truth streak a mile long.

Who would have thought someone who could get in so much trouble - sex tapes, booze-ups - could have that much personal insight.

Three years ago I saw Lowe on the Ellen DeGeneres Show when he went on to plug Stories.

He talked about being an alcoholic and what prompted him to go to rehab and get clean.

I was reading The Tipping Point (Baker and Taylor, $24) at the time and Lowe's turning- key moment seemed a classic example of what the author Malcolm Gladwell calls the boiling point.

Gladwell uses the term boiling or tipping point to describe what happens to communities when a craze takes off.

As he put it: "Ideas and products, and messages and behaviours, spread like viruses do."

Facebook, iPads and ebooks are textbook examples of so-called products or technologies that have reached tipping points.

While I was watching Lowe, I was surfing the web with my iPad.

I'd previously downloaded a few free ebooks and paid $50 for a textbook to save $150 but had otherwise stayed on the sidelines. I thought of how little I had to lose by downloading Lowe's first chapter.

So I took a chance. The teaser was fantastic. I was totally hooked, and thought: "Why not buy the whole thing?" I figured it would be days or weeks before I could grab a copy in Australia.

And it would cost up to $20 more.

So I bought the book and had a tipping-point moment. And now, I'm an ebook addict.

The West Australian

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