Charlie and I spend a lot of time talking about books. Specifically, what makes a book a book. It may be because of his predilection for reading (heavy!) thousand-page fantasy novels, but he's been dabbling with hardware- and software-based ebook platforms for a while now. Charlie's last foray into the land of the e-book reading platform, the Sony Reader, was pretty much a failure. It sustained his interest for a while, but eventually never managed to fit into his workflow, due to bad desktop client software and lack of interesting content. Unusable as a book reader, then he tried to use it as a "computer-lite" to display RSS feeds; it worked up to a point, but was very inelegant, largely because of inherent device limitations.
Charlie's mental jump—from seeing the Sony Reader as an electronic book, to a portable computer text display device—reflects the same insight that Virginia Hefferman's son had, in her recent article on the Amazon Kindle:
There's a social role for books, books that look and feel like books. I fully expect to buy an ebook reader sometime in the next few years (I'm rarely an early adopter), but I'm acutely aware of the fact that you lose things along the way. I've had long conversations with friends about the role of record cover art; those who grew up in the age of records have a very different relationship with it compared to those who saw cover art shrink down to fit cassettes, CDs, and iPod screens. I'm not ready to make a value judgment on how important cover art really is, but I do know that eighteen year olds seem to have a disproportionate amount of 60s-70s rock cover art posters on their walls, versus cover art from the 2000s. If nothing else, I fully expect to see some print editions of classic angsty lit in college dorm rooms in the 2040s.