My mother turned 73 yesterday. She regularly goes to America to see her grandchildren, visits Australia every now and then, works three mornings a week and does two art classes. Among the presents of chocolates and books, she also received a Kindle...and loves it.
As she is not the most tehnologically astute of people, the fact that my mother can easily use this piece of hardware set me thinking about the future of ebooks.
One of the arguments against Kindles and other ebook readers, is that people would be too scared of losing them...usually the same people who take a laptop everywhere. I don't think that is a relevant argument against them or an effective way of saying they are useless. Lots of things have been described a too expensive to take anywhere for fear of losing them, laptops being a prime example, but are still packed for when people do go out.
Mobile phones used to be large expensive items, but now people just buy a new one if they get lost as they are so cheap. The same will, in all likelihood, happen with the Kindle at some point in the next decade, especially as any book can now be converted for free and there are many 'classics' available for free on Amazon and other sites.
When people of my mother's generation take to something, like mobile phones, then you know the market has been cracked. It doesn't mean that paper is going to die next year, or even within the next decade, but it does mean it will at some point cease to be important and unless bookshops can find a way of selling ebooks to this kind of customer, then they will close. To quote Darwin, "It's not the strongest of the species that survive, but those most adaptable to change."