For years, Project Gutenberg and related endeavours have been seeking to produce digital copies of books that are no longer under copyright. The Gutenberg people have already digitized 17,000. Purposes for doing so include making machine-readable copies available for those with disabilities, allowing for their use with e-book readers, and even in more creative applications – like printing books onto scarves, so that you can read them on flights from the UK to the United States.
In the grand tradition of huge companies incorporating the results of smaller enterprises, many (if not all) of the Gutenberg books are now available through Google Book Search. Figuring out which Jane Austen book a particular passage stuck in your memory is from has thus become a far simpler task. For years, I have been using The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, provided by MIT, to search through plays.
Admittedly, not many people want to sit in front of a monitor to read an entire book. With the development of electronic paper that has high resolution, high contrast, and no requirement for power consumption while displaying static information, perhaps this will all become a whole lot more useful.