I didn't include an entertaining video as an introduction this time. This entry is about books, and books are made of text. Sorry.
I visited the Helsinki book fair a week ago, and many e-book readers were on display. Despite the buzz they were hardly the main thing of the event. Content took precedence over medium, as it should. But in a few decades, the face of the bookshelf-filled show floor could change drastically. E-books offer many obvious advantages over their printed cousins: they're more environmentally friendly, and eliminate a whole lot of logistics problems. Which would you rather move: 250 grams of reader device or half a metric ton of books containing the equal amount of content? Hint: the latter don't fit in your pocket.
Some say that the feel of a physical copy is more important than saving trees, time or the backs of postal workers. The market for paper-and-ink books will remain, just like the market for candles has remained despite all the fancy electric lighting. But like electric lighting, I'd bet e-books will mostly take over.
The technology is already here. Electronic paper -style screens are still ill-suited to anything but monochrome text display, but extrapolating from current laboratory technology it will be only about five years before both resolution and colors in mass market devices will be indistinguishable from print. Other than that, the current hardware is altogether quite fine.
Sadly, the business side of things generates a lot more issues. Most of the publishing houses and bookstores don't understand the digital market, and different players are all pulling their own way. Thus we have a plethora of different kinds of standards and policies, all confusing the user.
Thankfully, a few companies are doing something right: most notably Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Leveraging their stability, vast resources and control of the market, they have made e-books easy to use and worry-free. Book purchases are tied to the user's account, so losing one's reading material in an accident or theft of the device is impossible. To top it off, lots of public domain material is available at a nominal cost or absolutely free. I've used Amazon.com's Kindle for about two months now, reading more than ever and being extremely happy with the device.
The other side of the e-book market doesn't look as bright. Users are left to manage their book collection themselves using clunky, unwieldy software. Many of the advantages that e-books can bring are simply not offered. The mistakes made in the early days of digital music publishing are being repeated like they never happened. This is unfortunately the case in Finland, and a small language area like this draws little attention from the major international players.
In this situation, I'm facing a personal dilemma: my own language is dear to me, and reading books in it is something I enjoy. However, I'm not willing to touch the current Finnish e-book offerings - besides the low quality of the services, the e-books offered by Finnish bookstores are also priced like hardcovers. Oh well, I guess I'll buy a few more physical books, though a bit reluctantly. I've taken quite a liking to my Kindle e-reader. At least for me, the emotional attachment to books doesn't come from the dead trees, it comes from the content. Having all that content on one pleasant-to-use device is not just handy, but quite endearing too. The ones and zeros can't be touched, but they are there, making up insightful, exciting and entertaining words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Books that are strong enough keep their meaning however they are published.