Obviously there are tons of markets where books are seen as tools to be employed toward certain purposes (how-tos, cookbooks, etc), but it’s more than a little strange to read editorials that seem to believe that that’s all they are.
My daughter’s generation will probably have ebook textbooks. They will never experience dog-eared, vandalised, outdated school books, shared one-between-two. They will enjoy books that are enhanced with video, interactive graphics and picture galleries. And they will see these things are the norm. Printed books will be strange relics from their parents’ generation. They might appreciate their form but they will approach them as fundamentally less useful. And useful always wins in the end.
Useful obviously doesn’t always win, otherwise we wouldn’t have art, not to mention technology columns that repeat conventional wisdom.
The other problem with arguments like this is that, even with all the advantages ebooks offer, I’m sure people will find ways to screw them up. To take just one example, 10 – 15 years ago people couldn’t have predicted all of the variously malicious and annoying ways people have found to spoil something as truly great and common as email. Yes, email still works very well, but it doesn’t work quite as well as people thought it would have, and it’s created a host of problems all its own. Which is to say, as useful as ebooks will be for certain purposes, I’m sure they haven’t solved the “outdated, crappy” textbook problem for all time.