There has been a long, highly repetitious discussion of eBooks vs. proper books, fueled mostly by a mention in Freshly Pressed (which highlights sites on this service) and I don’t see a good reason to post any additional comments but rather will post a few considerations here.
First, the viability of printed books in the growing age of digital books is strictly a reflection of market forces. No matter how many subscribers to a weblog dedicated to reading announce that they prefer books, the smell of books, the juvenile prestige of being seen reading a big fat book, the love of idly flipping through pages or desperately flipping through pages looking for a vaguely remembered passage, or the glory of bookshelves full of books (read or unread), if the publishers can make a bigger profit off of digital editions, the traditional books will soon be priced as luxury items and effectively disappear from most of the reading market.
I don’t suspect all books will disappear. There are many that are more easily accessed in traditional book form, at least for now. Two types of books I have heard mentioned are children’s picture books and student text books. These are bad examples.
Printed books are a relic of the past and will never improve whereas digital books are today mostly just copies of traditional books with a few digital enhancements like a keen search feature that eliminates endless page flipping to find a passage. But we are beginning to see more digital books incorporating other digital media which expands and enhances the book. I have several digital books today which are interactive, embed video or audio, link to footnotes or alternate texts, allow changes to text size, bookmarks, notes, etc. The best I have ever seen a proper book do in this direction is to tape a CD on the back inside cover.
Some first edition hardbound books are printed using different colored text where the author indicates and including color plates but this is very expensive and usually disappears after the earlier editions. By the time the book comes out in paper it is all black and white. Multiple colors (not just four but thousands) are trivial enhancements to digital books. True, color requires a color reader but most vendors have been enhancing their readers and a color option is readily available.