Steve: If you were willing to take the time, you could scan your books at very little cost. There are also services that will scan your books for a dollar.
John: Sorry, but I just don't have the time to scan hundreds of pages myself, even if I had a fancy auto-feed scanner (which I don't). The services you mention are fine for books unavailable in ebook format, but even with prices like one dollar per 100 pages, the total cost, including shipping the original, is $8 or $9 — and all you get back are scanned PDF pages, not EPUB files. (I've written about my recent experience with one of these services in my blog: http://wp.me/pBNZg-1D.)
John: Because ebooks are software for electronic devices — not physical products — they impose a technical requirement on the consumer. He or she must be able to afford a device, often requiring a monthly paid data plan or at least the presence of an Internet connection. Operating systems and applications must be maintained, batteries must be recharged, and the devices themselves fail or become obsolete. In short, ebooks impose a technical requirement that is all but non-existent with print. (I'll admit: You do need a light source and basic literacy.) It's true that ebook technology is getting easier and more affordable, but print simply does not impose this type of post-sale burden.
Steve: While it is true that the consumer needs a device to read an ebook, the cost of these mobile devices is quite reasonable, ranging from $59 to $400, and in our research the price of devices was considered a good value by all but 2.4% of respondents. Only 5.6% of respondents said that the device purchase price was a significant problem. I think that you are overstating the support issues. Most households already have Internet access and free Wi-Fi is readily available to most consumers. Devices can fail or need replacing, but so can the bindings of well-used books like my favorite cookbooks.
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.