I went to the launch of the digital library at my local library that is, e-audio books and e-books. I made an interesting discovery. In a library environment my objections to ebooks largely disappear. (I wrote about my objections here.)
It has been my experience that the search options in library catalogues are generally better than those on bookshop websites because they give you more choices. For example you can simply search for popular titles. (Maybe I’m cynical but if a bookshop had an option for a popular title I would suspect it was the one with the biggest mark up! Whereas a library has no ulterior motives for listing a title as popular.) Therefore it is not absolutely necessary to put something into a search engine.
While it is still true that you cannot thoroughly ‘vet’ an online book, if you are only borrowing it, there is less need to. You can ‘vet’ it after you have borrowed it and simply deleted it if it is not what you expected. I complained that I could not pass the ebook I had bought on to a friend but neither would I be able to if I had borrowed it from the library. I also complained I cannot browse someone’s ebook collection but library books are generally not kept on a person’s own bookshelf so I wouldn’t be browsing them anyway.
All this leads me to think that ebooks in libraries could become very popular especially as internet connections become faster. It would save money not only in the purchasing and repairing, but also in the moving of books between libraries.
Nevertheless while libraries may go down this path, I still think print books will be us for quite a while.