Cory Doctorow has a piece on Creative Commons “freekonomy” posted on the Locus magazine site. As ever he ably shows how free ebooks can be used to support and encourage sales of writers. The major problem is that there is now way of quantifying the data to support either side of the argument, or if there is it has not been implemented widely enough to support or disprove the argument.
I don’t see a world in which we read books of screens, forsaking the print or dead tree versions. I really don’t. I do see the electronic version being useful for scanning for information or quotations (I’ve “read” various books online for trial or information and in most cases gone out to buy the printed book as it is easier to use, though in my case they tend to be computing manuals or non-fiction books rather than fiction).
At one level we need the data to show the sales managers and directors that ebooks can work in tandem with print books, not against. At another we need publishers to be brave a just do it rather than half-heartedly poke a toe in the water.