That really is the question. I have always been one of the 'nothing will ever replace the paper format of books' brigade, but having done a bit of research, I am no longer so sure. Both Amazon and Sony have brought out an e-reader. Haven't seen the Sony one, but Kindle, the Amazon reader is the thickness of a pencil and the size of a normal book. It is light and weighs less than most books. It also holds numerous books in its memory and a download, according to the blurb, is only a few seconds away.
So, how will the world go as far as the printed word is concerned? A friend asked me if I had a penpal when I was younger. Yes, I did. I obviously wrote to her and posted the letter. Yes. But, as she pointed out, were I to have that friend now, I would be e-mailing her, not writing letters. There are few people now who do not access the Internet, if only, like my husband's 83 year old aunt, to e-mail her younger sister in Wisconsin. So, perhaps in 10 years, most books will be of the e variety. I don't think paper books will ever completely die out, but even with old, out of print ones, they are occasionally available on Google books.
I am currently writing an alternate Tudor history detective story, called "Duty of Evil". The alternate bit is that, in my book, Anne Boleyn did not miscarry the boy child in 1534 and he is now Henry IX. My detective is an apothecary who is also an elemancer - a magician who uses the elements. Elemancers go into trances and need protection when they do, so I have invented greysprings, a cross between a springer spaniel and a greyhound and the greysprings stand guard over their magician if he or she happens to go into a trance in a public place where they could be vulnerable. But the plot is the time-honoured one of some unknown person trying to kill the King. Because I know Anne Boleyn was very fond of dogs, I have made her an elemancer, too. The point for this long-winded paragraph, is that, because the thesis of the book is so left-field, the history as far as I can make it so, has to be right and here Google books has been magnificent, both in terms of the lives of prominent Tudors and in terms of clothes, food, crime and punishment etc. So, I am becoming accustomed to reading a book on the screen. It's only a hop and a skip to sitting in bed, holding a tablet and reading a book there.
Of course, like most things of this ilk, the big explosion of ebook readers is in America, so, having just published a Sherlock Holmes adventure - "Murder at Oakwood Grange", based on Dr Watson's unwritten story of the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant - I might just stick an experimental toe in the world of ebooks and see what happens. I understand that the great detective is very popular on the other side of the Atlantic. Wish me luck. If you prefer the printed copy, of course, just go to Amazon.