I started this piece as a blogmark, but decided to make a decent post out of it. The BBC has an interesting piece on the case for books in an era which sees e-book readers coming into play:
What is the most flexible, intelligent, interactive data retrieval system yet to appear?
It's the book.
They make an interesting point with this article, but skip a bit on the ease of a search-function and hyperlinks possible in an e-book. If you have a decent e-book reader, meaning it will display content (be it text or images) in a high resolution (the screen of the Nokia N810 starts coming close), transflective or reflective screen (causing great contrast which eases reading, like e-paper), this may just rival a paper edition of a book. Also, this enables you to take a whole series with you, which is a lot easier to use as reference when on a trip than a backpack full of hefty paper. Hyperlinks enable easy reference of footnotes and endnotes, or chapters and passages from the index of content. They can even reference (pieces of text in) other books.
Of course, a nicely printed book is almost a piece of art, but in essence it's about the message it's transporting. This already works well on a Palmtop, Nokia N810 or even a cellphone screen (a computer monitor tends to be too big in my experience). If you throw in a decent, really highres e-book reader with e-paper (so, a few bits better than the Sony reader or even the iRex Illiad, you can show off beautiful typesetting and fonts with highres images, all in a tidy package enabling you to take quite a lot more of reading material on a trip. Imagine even downloading new content when on the move :) The latter points to the fact that distribution of books is a lot easier - thus cheaper - which could be good for `small', unknown (independent?) writers.
Also, having a digital version of a book enables the reader to adjust it to her wishes, like changing the font (enlarge the text so it's better readable, maybe change the font if the reader prefers to). Or even hide the images, if she doesn't want illustrations to disturb the mental image she has about the story and its characters. She can even take notes on it without ruining the original work (as they are stored as meta data and can be hidden at will; sharing them with friends or classmates is another option).
Let's just say I'm waiting for an Illiad-like device with a (much?) higher dpi (making smooth fonts and images possible) which works for a long time on its batteries. This will give me a great screen with wifi capabilities, input for taking notes etc. and maybe even colour for reading (online) comics :) ).
Downside is that you don't get an impressive and beautiful collection of filled book shelves to look at. This saves you fire insurance though and leaves room for a large screen showcasing a virtual shelf your visitors can browse through ;)