I originally posted the link because I thought that a few of you would be interested but I never expected such a heartfelt response. It's why I keep coming back.
I don't think that kindle uses LCD either but the effect of sitting staring at a screen surely should be looked into- there would seem to be no shortage of subjects to study, hasn't most of mankind been watching TV for fifty or so years?
I actually find that I can read more quickly from a screen- I read almost everything on a 15" laptop screen and I find the convenience of having my huge e-library always just a double click away is great. Most of the material that I have to use for research comes as e-books so I have gotten used to them. I am aware that HDDs can just die and so I have several copies of everything as back up. I find that HDDs have a slightly longer life expectancy than 5 years. This laptop is older than that and it runs pretty much constantly for 18 hours a day. Generally it is the optical drives or the motherboard that give out in PCs.
I have been involved in indie publishing for a while and the smart operators use a combination of e-book and print books. In the industry this is driven by the extra sales opportunities offered by the new medium. The general tone among publishers is that while the big traditional publishing houses are worried printed books are not going to go away. It will only be the people that publish them who will change. Recently Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives, who said;
“The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”
For people that want to write books and get them to others who need them the new POD options is a really cheap and accessible system. It also has the advantage of using less resources as books aren't printed until someone buys them. That has to be more environmentally friendly than even e-books.
I think that scholars should be excited about the opportunities that e-books offer. It takes weeks, if not longer, to produce a print volume. Using a site like Smashwords an e-book can be on the market in hours. For people that just want to share their learning with others this can be a great communication tool. Distributing literature to students could benefit too. It is often possible to extract just what you want to use from a digital document and reformat it into another e-book specially for a course. That would certainly use less resources than photocopying or having every student buy a book to read just a few dozen pages. Not being a scholar myself my insight into how it could be used is limited but I am sure that into the future we will see this medium being used in really creative and productive ways.
At the moment Project Gutenberg is turning public domain books into e-books and by now they have well over a million books online- that's quite a resource even if it is only going to last for 20 years, which I sincerely doubt. Big corporations have a stake in the e-book format now with most of their literature coming in that form. I know this because I write lots of it. PDF, like JPEG is a format that has been designed to last and to be universally useful. I wouldn't consider publishing in print without having at least a PDF version on the market too. I am sure that anyone that has put the effort into writing an academic book wants to be able to reach as many people as they can too.
I have really enjoyed the conversation here. It has been very interesting to hear what you all have to say.