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?