All the handwringing that the book is dead is really directed to the “books that are really not books,” the kind of things enumerated above that were published as books at a time when that was, however inadequate, the most viable format. The long-form text, on the other hand, has no real competition outside of the entertainment area, where Netflix and HBO compete with the commercial novel (but not, for the most part, with the literary novel). For all our talk about reduced attention spans, some ideas require space to stretch out in, some areas need extended syntheses. It is a mistake to make a book more like the Web, valuable as Web-like publications are. But they are different kinds of publications. The future of the long-form text, the core meaning of a book, is in making it more like itself.<idle musing>
I would take issue with reference materials being better digitally. There’s still a lot to be said for the paper dictionary/lexicon. I still reach for BDAG/LSJ/HALOT/BDB/DCH—there’s something about a paper version that makes it easier to pick up a lot of info in a quick glance and then go deeper. I have electronic versions of most of those, but find I rarely use them as opposed to the paper version.
That also goes for text editions. I find navigating a text with an apparatus criticus to be easier on paper—although I'm sure others would disagree with me there.
Sure, the hyperlinking is nice—and I take advantage of that. But, the initial look-up (for me) is easier via paper. Mind you, that's not because I'm a amateur at things digital—I built my first computer back in 1982 and have been on the Internet since 1995. I even ran an IT department for five years and had a network running Linux, BSD, and Windows in my basement for several years. But, there are things that are better on paper, just as there are things that are better digitally.