The whole point, I think, of having books online is to make research easier. Imagine the university student's research papers of yesterday, where they relied on the library to have the books, the library catalogue to point them to the books, and either a book index, or their own time to scan all the pages to find what they were looking for.
In the future I see students popping in keywords into searches and having returned many more books and references than they could ever find manually. I see research and overall learning advancing by leaps and bounds. I had a research paper myself that would have, I think, been many times better had I been able to search through digital newspapers for any articles on my subject.... thus not only books, but I think all old newspaper articles should be saved and archived digitally.
In College/University I also made great use of Project Gutenberg. I wanted to see what a certain person had to say about a particular subject, and I was able to find it by searching a digital version on the Project Gutenberg website. There was no way I would have had the time to manually flip though a paperback copy of the book, and even if I did there was a good chance I wouldn't have caught it.
Every time I have this conversation I bring up the true story movie Lorenzo's Oil http://www.myelin.org/themovie.htm In the movie the parents are racing against time to find information to save their child who has limited amount of time before ALD kills him. They had a scene where one of the parents is in the library looking at articles on microfiche scrolling through them, and one just happens to catch their eye as they were clicking through... so they scroll back to it, and it ends up holding the key to a major breakthrough in their work. Could you imagine if those two people had access to all those research papers in digital format?? How much more successful they would have been!
Even in my own life today, anytime I wonder anything I just hop onto Google and usually the answer is right there and I've learned something new. I would never go to a library to research every little question that pops into my head. Not every question is answered on the internet exactly in the detail I wish it would, but for the most part I am usually satisfied for the time being as I only required a quick answer.
Digital books are the way of the future... easy access to information is how we can quickly advance. Solutions must be created so that the original authors/creators are properly compensated (same goes for music, movies, etc) but that the material is still easily accessible by all through the internet.
I love Google. I believe the vision they have for the internet is one that I share, and anyone that stands in the way without offering real solutions is hindering progress.
And an interesting one about increases in internet usage: