Slashdot has an article describing how a pilot by Princeton University (in the US) to supply 50 free Kindles (eBooks) to students had left some of them disappointed after just two weeks. One student is quoted and explains the benefits of a traditional book, including writing in the margins, using stick notes, highlighting text and so on.
I found this interesting as I blogged yesterday about Chris Anderson's new book Free and commented that I had paid for a conventional book, rather than accessing a free copy online. At the time I wrote the post I wondered if that was because I was not one of the young net naturals. But I suspect that eBooks are simply not sufficiently far down the road yet. I think they will replace books one day, but it might be a while yet before that happens.
My suspicion is that we need to see two separate developments. 1) ePaper, with ePaper you could get the equivalent of a newspaper that you could read on the train or in a waiting room, but the content could be readily updated. 2) a system based on small screens (like an iPhone) with moving text, and readers who have grown up reading moving text. With a small screen the conventional way of reading, where the eye scans across and down is always going to be a problem for fast readers, too much of the time is taken using the fingers to move the text. Either the text will have to be moving most of the time, or it will need to track the eyes in some way to 'know' when to move.