Years ago, a friend of mine got a first generation Kindle. I remember thinking to myself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. I like books. I want to read books, not a computer screen." Well, let me tell you, about a year and a half ago, I became a total convert, thanks to the first edition of the Barnes & Noble nook (in the interest of full disclosure, I do work part time at my local B&N).
I get that there are still people who enjoy the feel of a book in their hand - I'm one of them. But I also like to have space on my counters and nightstands and my foosball table. I've bought more books in my lifetime than I can even count, and despite having given away legions of them, I was going to have to start giving away children to make room for any more book purchases (and yes, there were days when that looked really appealing). I can fit 1500 books on my 3G version of the nook, and a few thousand more if I drop $20 on an extra SIM card. If I had purchased the nookcolor, it would hold 6,000 ebooks.
Storage is a huge issue for me, but so is pricing. I love books, but I'm thrifty - perhaps it's my Scottish ancestry to blame for that. Because I'm someone who rarely reads books more than once -- it's got to be REALLY good for me to do so -- I can't justify spending $24.99 on the newest hardcovers. However, I have no problem with downloading them for $9.99. If I had $25 to spend on books, I'd be way more likely to buy four titles at $5.99 apiece than a single front-list novel. (For a great explanation of why e-books are priced the way they are, read Nathan Bransford's blog post)
Finally, as a writer, I love that there are so many publishing houses embracing the e-book format. There are some who do nothing BUT digital editions - the romance and sci-fi genres in particular have always been supportive of digital technology, long before mainstream publishers got on board - and it's a great way for a writer to get their name out in a variety of venues, rather than just hoping someone picks up your novel at the local Big Chain Book Store.
Today, I went and grabbed the new nook Simple Touch, which will hold a thousand books - I just happened to be in the store when the truck arrived, so I was the first one to get mine and bring it home. And I'm in love with it already, because it combines all the features of the first generation nook (e-ink display being awesome) with the convenience of a touchscreen, which I think is kind of the best invention ever. Also, as someone who's easily distracted by shiny things, it's perfect for me, because there's no fancy bells'n'whistles. It's an ereader. It holds my books and lets me read them, curled up on the couch with a cat in my lap.
E-readers aren't taking away your Book Reader privileges - they're just presenting a new and convenient way to store and read stuff. Back around the 1870s, someone came up with the ridiculous idea of using plain ol' paper to bind books, instead of cloth- or leather-bound boards. Everyone pooh-poohed the suggestion at first - after all, who wants to read a book covered in PAPER? But obviously, it revolutionized the publishing industry, because in the 1930s, the mass-market paperback format took off, and now here we are in a world where most of the books you buy are paperback instead of hardcover. Doesn't mean they're any less "book" than the hardcover version. Doesn't mean one format is better or worse. It's just different, and it meets different peoples' needs. Libraries and books aren't going away - they're just CHANGING.
As a similar example, look at what the mp3 file has done to the music industry. If I go for a run through the park, I don't take a stack of cds with me. I take my iPod, set my DriveTime Playlist on shuffle, and crank the hell out of the Beastie Boys in my pocket.
I know, we all want ebooks to smell like real books, taste like real books, feel like real books - but you'll end up with hairy palms and poor eyesight if you keep obsessing over it. Sure, e-readers aren't for everyone. But they're not going away any time soon, and honestly, I'm grateful.