David Pogue has an editorial in the most recent issue of Scientific American called "The Trouble with E-Readers," clarifying, first of all, the news last summer that Amazon's e-books were outselling its hardcovers:

Amazon provided only the relative proportions of sales, not the actual quantities. It didn’t mention that its e-books of most best sellers cost a flat $10, compared with, for example, $25 for the same book in hardback. And it didn’t say anything at all about paperback sales (which sell the most of all).

An interesting new wrinkle with Amazon's e-book pricing is that since they started allowing publishers to set their own e-book prices (but not print book prices, which Amazon still heavily discounts), it's not all that unusual to see an e-book cost more than the corresponding hardcover--and, as a result, reading the customer reviews can be more entertaining than the actual book!

Mr. Pogue also talks about how the printed book is not dead, nor will it be killed at the hands of the e-book.

As I point out in my recent WhatTheyThink e-book report (E-Books: From Cellar to Bestseller), p- vs. e- is a false dichotomy; it's not about one replacing the other; it's about providing content in whatever form the user wants it. Some prefer print, some prefer electronic. Some prefer a combination, or different media at different times. Some prefer neither and would rather go out and do things in the real world. It's all good. All media have their pluses and minuses, and some of those are not pluses for everyone, and some are not minuses for everyone. We (and by "we" I mean "I") talk and write at length about e-books not because the Lords of E-Books are going to give us a free toaster if we get X number of print enthusiasts to switch, but because it's an emerging market and it behooves content creators to pay attention to it, lest they lose a chance to get in on the ground floor (although I suspect we're already at the Mezzanine level). Plus there's sort of a "geek chic" factor that drives a lot of interest in new devices and other shiny baubles.

And it's not always about quality. Sure, e-books (largely) lack any kind of typographic or aesthetic appeal (for now), especially compared to printed books. (And ask Dr. Joe about the footnote issue in the e-book versions of Disrupting the Future.) But, for hardcore music lovers, the MP3 format is far inferior to CDs and CD-quality audio and that certainly hasn't stopped MP3 sales from exceeding CD sales. And revisiting an old analogy, VHS was an inferior format to Beta. The market decides what becomes successful, and the market has its own, often mystifying preferences, to which the popularity of Lady Gaga or reality television is a testament.

Probably the best example of the way that p-books and e-books can live together is on an airplane. I have a bunch of e-books on my iPad that I read while flying--but have to switch over to a printed book during takeoffs and landings when all electronic devices have to be turned off. However, during extraordinarily heavy turbulence on my last flight, my iPad nearly flew out of my exceedingly sweaty hands and might have broke, another case where p-books have the advantage--though an errant hardcover edition of Stephen King's Under the Dome probably could have bludgeoned the guy in the next seat. (Not that that would be a problem a lot of the time...)

There was also a study released a couple of months ago by Scholastic that suggested that e-books are getting kids and teens interested in reading books at all (book reading had started to decline decades ago, thanks to radio and television). That can't be a bad thing.

Mr. Pogue also has a complementary post offering tips for better e-reading, if you must read e-books. It kind of reminds me of the old joke about the two women in a restaurant. "The food here is terrible," says one, "Yes, and such small portions," says the other. E-books are terrible to read. And there are so few titles available.