If the purpose of a book cover is primarily to attract attention in a bookstore, or on a shelf, then a digital image is just fine — especially on larger color screens. The book content argument is tricky, however. Well-structured ebook files and capable e-reading software do give the user the power to create an aesthetically pleasant page. For narrative, text-heavy works, this is adequate. However, print designers currently have more tools for creating beautiful and effective pages, especially if one needs more fonts, has more illustrations, if reflowable text is inconsistent with overall design goals, or if the subject matter (e.g., maps or large images) benefits from a reading area larger than a tablet screen.
Steve: Book designs are developed with a certain page size in mind. This can be a major limiting factor in creating designs because book pages are sequential and changes in one page can have an impact on subsequent pages. We all have books with one or multiple blank pages required to maintain the book's overall design. Already content designers are producing open or page free designs that provide attractive, functional and readable displays on a wide range of digital products and also support the constraints of a traditional book format.
Steve: Even the greatest lover of print books has to admit that they take up a lot of space. I can store thousands of ebooks on my e-reading devices and move them from device to device as I upgrade. I can even download my ebooks to several devices at the same time.
John: It's true that physical books come with storage and display costs — and an occasional sore back. However, for the works I value (and am not willing or able to re-purchase as ebooks), the space needed for physical books is an acceptable burden. If there were a way for me to transition most of my print formatted books to digital — similar to the way I've converted my CDs and vinyl albums to MP3s — then I would gladly do so, and reclaim the space currently occupied by paper.
John Parsons (firstname.lastname@example.org), former Editorial Director of The Seybold Report, is an independent writer, ghostwriter, and editor. He is the co-author of the interactive printed textbook, Introduction to Graphic Communication, on the art, science and business of print, which has been adopted by Ryerson, Arizona State, the University of Houston, and many other schools and vocational training centers. Custom editions of the book are under consideration by major printing companies and franchises for internal training purposes.