A sensible article in the Book Standard looks at publishers and authors who think, rather "How can we not?"
Major publishers have been releasing online excerpts and teasers of books for years. Baen Books, a publisher of science fiction, does other publishers one better with a free downloadable library on its site, in which all of their authors are invited to post the full texts of their books. The first one Baen posted in its entirety was David Weber’s On Basilisk Station, which had already been selling well in hardcover. “We put it up for free and the result of that is that since that very month, this title has been our No. 1 backlist seller,” says founder Jim Baen. “It bounced up when it went online, and it just stays up.”
Lisa Spangenberg wins the award for best comment:
I tend to think of a "book" as a data container; this is perhaps because I've read "books" in clay tablets, in wax tablets, in papyrus and vellum scrolls, in vellum and paper sheets, and even in vellum and paper codices.
Some containers are more durable than others; some are easier to read on a plane or bus. I tend to think about where I'll be doing my reading, and buy the most suitable container. Sometimes I buy the same book in several different containers.
What we're dealing with is the opportunties and challenges offered by a new kind of container---one that makes delivering and packaging information much easier and faster than before. It's going to be awhile before we figure out how best to use the container to deliver the content in a way that meets the readers' needs. But I think that's part of the fun.