Having the ability to touch any word on the screen and have definitions, translations, and wikipedia entries pop up as you read (which is great for many of the older books) is a fantastic benefit over and beyond the simple fact that so many of the world's classics are available free of charge wherever you have internet access is a bonus that can't be overlooked. Honestly, in terms of studying books such as Gibbon's Fall of the Roman Empire, I find myself eternally grateful for such capabilities.
I agree wholeheartedly that the eBook experience *could* be much better than physical books, but it isn't.
As an experiment, I recently picked up a reader and tried it (Sony eReader). Here's what I found:
- .) The contrast is lousy, it's reading with a piece of slightly frosted glass between you and the text
- .) The reflected glare is awful. You can't read wearing a white shirt, for example.
- .) Every time the system powers up it has to run through the database making a hash of each file it finds. This can take upwards of an hour, depending on the number and complexity of items, and during which the system cannot be used.
- .) It always shows PDFs at "fill the screen" resolution, which means that the margins of the original page are always visible, which means that most of the display area is wasted. I can "zoom" individual pages, but to go to the next page I have to get out of zoom and then reapply the zoom to the next page.
- .) Using the "small-medium-large" setting scales the font, but not the formatting. Characters and words become larger, but the "breaks" at the original margins are still there, meaning that the lines break at odd places and waste much of the display area.
- .) Finding a specific place in a book is time consuming and inefficient. The first 30 physical pages of a book are usually things I want to skip (contents, publisher, title page, foreward, &c) and going forward to find the transition from meta to actual content is tedious. You can't just say "go to the start of text". In a real book you flib forward/back at high speed until the character of the pages change.
- .) Finding a referenced diagram, equation, or image is nigh impossible. Flipping forward (or back) 3 pages to see a chart of graph is easy in a physical book - you just put your finger in that place and you can go back-and-forth whenever you need.
- .) Reading scientific papers where the charts/diagrams are at the end of the document is highly inconvenient.
- .) Finding a specific place *mentioned* in a book is nigh impossible. If the contents say "Chapter 5 is on page 120", then you have to go to *physical* page 120 and then flip forward or back until you find what you're looking for. If the contents say "figure 120" and you're looking at "figure 4", it's too time consuming to find it. (I'm currently reading a book in PDF format that does this.)
All in all, I haven't used my eReader much.
It might be OK for narrative stories, light paperback reading that you can do in a dentist's office, and if it's a modern eBook written with proper formatting, but for anything remotely sophisticated it's insufficient.