Oh, believe me, I'm fiercely ambiguous about e-books.

My home town is the tiny city of Crookston, which happens to have a cutting-edge campus of the University of Minnesota. They call themselves "the original Laptop U" because anyone who signs up as a full-time residential student gets a laptop, & the campus was the first in the nation to be one big hotspot. Depending on the course, they can review lectures anywhere & anytime they want, participate in topical chats, or ping their professor or TA.

I've spoken to a few undergrads who feel connectivity is a lifesaver. Yeah, I remember trudging across campus (Minneapolis) for two miles, in wet nasty snow, going to the library just to photocopy one critical page. Heck, if I'd had the option to go to Amazon & get the Cliff's Notes e-book for $10, I'd have paid! And with so many Project Gutenberg books available, rummaging around in the stacks for a mis-shelved old tome is less necessary than ever, & you don't have to worry about hours.

(Oh, FWIW: there are companies that make "workproof" PDAs to withstand common workplace & feedlot situations. Not "one size fits all," but helpful to some. Still, I know exactly what you mean about trying to read a Palm screen that's telling you how to do a two-handed job while dangling from a phone-pole...)