The analogy with the container is, in my view, fallacious. Imagine that you have developed all sorts of alternative containers (and delivery systems) for potatoes but people don't want to or can't pay for potatoes, nobody can spend their time planting potatoes for sale, etc. etc. And potatoes have it over books in that at least you can plant for yourself and eat.
The situation, in the US, as I see it, is that it had an inordinate number of books published for a long time, people had disposable income and bought books, no big deal. There were plenty of used books to buy if one wanted to spend much less, libraries bought lots of books, etc. For many decades, the US was book paradise, people had books in bookcases and kept buying new ones. This is not so in many countries, and I'm not thinking only of third-world countries. Given that the country is ruined, it makes sense that the "flush" situation I'm describing above can't hold. The electronic book is not the main thing, though it has huge problems (it cannot be recirculated as "used", for example), it requires a special device, it is not enabling for the populace, and so on.
We may well see a situation where people buy many fewer books, regardless of format. The students are prisoners, but the rest of the population is definitely not, they can choose not to buy when they can't.
The question of how that much smaller market will be cut up is important, of course. And the arguments put forth by Dave and others about a morass of low-profile books in electronic form, the power of certain retailers to choose and control, etc., are certainly serious.
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