An article on CNN titled "Are we spell-bound by e-books?"
puts forth the notion of a "magic scroll"—an e-book reader with all the books you could ever want to read in one place. The article recaps the history of past devices (Sony, iLiad, etc.) and decides the Kindle is the closest yet to the magic scroll—close but no cigar.
CNN reporter Cherise Fong concludes that e-books won't succeed until they are plentiful, which of course puts the book reader in the classic chicken/egg conundrum. Publishers won't publish e-books until there's an established base of people with book readers, but consumers won't buy e-book readers until there's a big library of e-books available.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon has no doubts. Here's quote from the article: In response to the lingering fetish for the printed page, Bezos sighed: "I'm sure people loved their horses too, but you're not going to keep riding a horse to work."
A related post on GalleyCat
describes author M. David Hornbuckle chatting with his small-press publisher about his career plan. The post references a subscription-only article but also includes a quote from Hornbuckle:
"A few weeks after I submitted my novella to Cantarabooks ... they offered me a contract to publish it as an e-book, sold exclusively on their Web site as a PDF file. The contract specifies that they will offer me a paperback contract once the e-book sells above a certain threshold, indicating that my readership is wide enough to justify the cost of printing. The terms are very generous; because of the e-book format, they have little overhead, and I make a 40 percent royalty on all sales."
This is the first time I've seen an e-book publisher offering this kind of deal. In a way, it makes a lot of sense—it shifts the risk to the author instead of to the publisher. Although I'm not sure "risk" is the right term in this case. I suppose it depends on how desperate (or self-confident) the author is.
Speaking of terminology, I think they could come up with a better term than "reader." I
am the reader, dammit, not the Kindle or the Sony. How about making up something new?