Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
The reasons are multiple. First you have to think outside of the throwaway culture we're maintained in by multinationals; where everything must be consumed and destroyed to make place for the 'new'.
-You can lend your copy of the book while keeping your reader.
Not quite. In the case of a paper book, there is a reader device, too. The reader device consists of a bunch of pressed and bleached woodpulp sheets. The difference is that the reader is disposable. Once you're no longer interested in the book, you can't erase it and use the reader for another purpose.
With ebooks you can
give the book to someone else while keeping the reader if the DRM allows it (almost all the ebooks I use have no DRM). With a paper book, you can't--you can only give the book by giving the reader. However, the reader is much cheaper.
On the other hand, as you note, pressed woodpulp readers last a lot longer. The issue of preserving digital data across formats is an important one. This is why open formats are very important. (For instance, when I use anything other than standard tar/gzip for backing up, I also keep a copy of the source code for the backup software on the backup media, so I can recover the backup eventually on a different platform if needed. This means that I can't use any backup software that doesn't have an open format.)
I think the only way to preserve digital data over time right now is to keep it on a hard-drive that one regularly upgrades, and backs up regularly (say, onto another hard-drive or onto optical media, ideally stored at another location). The backups are temporary, in case of short-term hard-drive failure, rather than for long-term storage. For long-term storage a continually operating, regularly upgraded drive seems the thing. This does mean that it's a lot more of a nuisance to preserve ebooks than paper books over the long term, and hence it is good for society at large to keep paper books. But that doesn't mean I need to. However, since I already have a lot of electronic data I need to preserve, it would not be any more work if the ebooks were among the data. (Not that it matters that much to me. Content produced by others is generally replaceable. I am mostly worried about loss of unpublished self-generated data.)