There is a distinct difference between the browsing habits long associated with book buying in stores -- talking to knowledgeable staff, the chance encounter with a surprise book, the ability to thumb through the pages before purchase -- and the essentially mechanical process of ordering a book online. But there are so many advantages to shopping digitally that it is hardly surprising that consumers are attracted to it. An e-book is never out of stock; you can carry as many books as you want on the snazzy devices, and prices usually are substantially below the print version. Still, there is definitely something unsettling about switching to e-readers or tablets that gives many consumers the sense that they are abandoning venerable reading habits and their neighborhood bookseller (including Barnes & Noble) in favor of the digital upgrade. Listening to music on the iPod instead of CDs, for example, does not seem to generate the same sentiment of tristesse that giving up books in favor of files has done.
Yep... the upheaval in publishing will lead to more change than many expect. And I expect it will also lead to changes we have not even foreseen.