I was recently gifted a Kobo and now have read three books on the ereader. I like that it's not backlit. After working on my laptop, I don't want to stare at another screen. I like that I can purchase ebooks through my local bookstore for it and check out books from the library and hold many books in one small place. I don't like that it has to be recharged, turned off on airplanes, doesn't feel like a book or smell, I can't easily tell how far into the book I am, the formatting isn't beautiful but functional, etc. I can see the benefits of ebooks in certain circumstances, but I am far from converting entirely to electronic.
I'm not disgruntled about ebooks. I wish I liked them more--I'd love space for a dresser in my bedroom, but all the walls are taken up by book cases. I receive royalties for ebooks just as I do for paper books. But I do believe it's important to consider the consequences if ebooks take up too much market share.
Often ebook retailers who also sell e-readers sell ebooks at a loss in order to promote their e-readers. If ebooks are sold for significantly less than their hardcover and even paperback counterparts, it's less likely people will invest in the latter. Paper books will come to seem ridiculously overpriced. Which they are not. Publishing is not a fat cat industry. No one is getting rich (except a very few megaseller authors, which represent such a tiny percentage of the industry they're hardly worth mentioning). Look at anyone down the line: editor, agent, publisher, publicist, distributor, bookseller, author, and you see that everyone is trying to make a living and no one is wealthy. No one gets into any part of publishing with the intent of striking it rich (unless they're woefully ignorant). They do it because they love books and care about literacy.
So, what happens if ebook prices dip down lower and stay lower? Customers like that because they can buy books for less. HOWEVER, the smaller the print run of a paper book, the more expensive it is to publish, the less profit a publisher makes. If most editions sold of a book are electronic, publishers won't be able to afford printing hard copies. Many books would only be available electronically, and those in paper would be more expensive.
So what? Maybe everything goes digital in the future. Save the trees, right? But what about those who can't afford an e-reader? What about libraries, schools, kids? Right now, public libraries are "the great equalizer" as someone said. Anyone can have access to most any book for free in a library. But if some books are only available as an ebook, only those with readers will have access. Libraries are already underfunded. What will happen if fewer hard copies are printed and the prices go up?
I don't know how this will all play out, but I am concerned. Some say, keep the market open and don't be afraid of change. But the change I foresee isn't just a different industry, it's one that is actually smaller, more prone to monopolies, and less accessible by the poor and by children. I want quality literature. I want freedom of speech. I want all children and adults to have access to thousands of different books, any one of which might change their lives.