March 8-14, 2009 is Read an E-Book Week. There is something to be said for the feel of a physical book in your hands. I love the smell of books and that is, unfortunately, something that no ereader has been able to replicate. But I discovered the great world of ebooks years ago and found, interestingly enough, I like them.
I am the very satisfied owner of a Sony Reader which perpetually lives in my bag and at any one time holds 300+ short stories, novellas, novels, and non-fiction books. In my mind, the Reader has more than paid for itself by allowing me to start another book immediately after finishing one on my train ride to work.
Ebooks also have a much lower carbon footprint than a traditional dead-tree version. A paperback book uses energy to produce the raw materials needed to print the book (paper, ink, glue), and then the actual energy used to assemble the book. Then there is the energy used to transport the books to the store, the energy the consumer uses to drive to the store and back, and if the books are not sold, the energy to send them back to the publisher to be pulped. The necessary energy increases with a hardcover book. An ebook, however, saves the vast majority of all that. Yes, it uses electricity - you need it to read the darn thing! - but I can order it at home, download it, and start reading immediately. An ebook cuts out raw materials, production, and transportation.
Ebooks are still very much a niche market but a growing one. More publishers are experimenting with electronic books and many authors have used the medium to publicize themselves, sometimes giving away free copies of their books in electronic format.
Read and E-Book Week is a great way for readers to experiment with ebooks themselves. There are number of websites that have collections of ebooks available for public consumption free. The most famous of these is Project Gutenberg, which is a collection of public domain books. But if you aren't interested in classics, there are also ManyBooks and Feedbooks which house both public domain books and contemporary books published under a Creative Commons License.
While not everyone will be a convert, how will you know if you like ebooks or not if you never try?