"For someone who makes a living in IT you sure don't seem to be very knowledgable about this sort of thing."
I'm willing to wait 5-10 years to see who's right. I just hope you don't get too burned by your notions.
"Convert the file."
Publisher doesn't let you and it's illegal to do so due to various laws that have been written; it's considered hacking. You have to buy it again. How about the people who were converting old records to MP3 and posting the songs on Napster... old folk music that no one had heard for decades was suddenly available again, and the copyright owners found out about it and shut them down just because it was their music and they weren't the ones distributing it. "Convert the File" did nothing to the longevity of that music. There might be a couple extra copies out there now, in digital form, but it's statistically insignificant and likely to be gone in a decade.
"Easily bypassed. Seriously? An IT guy who doesn't know that???"
Easily? Sure, if you know how to download a tool. Can you
program it? You're missing my point. Many people just say "oh, there'll be a crack," but there isn't always, and it's not that you CAN, it's that you SHOULDN'T HAVE TO. At some point, your format is going to not be important and no one's going to be writing cracks and converters for it. You miss the bus, hey, your files dead. Let's talk 50 years from now. You're dead and gone and someone finds your hard drives in the attic. Do you HONESTLY think it will be easily bypassed then?
"And how is this any different than print other than the fact that it will be more likely that someone else will buy it to sell since they don't have to worry about printing it, just host it. And if that fails and the book is otherwise completely impossible to buy ask someone who owns it to email you a copy."
Well, I can see that laws are of no concern to you. Hosting it is breaking copyright in most cases, unless you were referring to a 3rd party licensing it to sell. Who's going to do that if there's maybe five people per year who might be interested in it? Regardless of that, your statement about having someone e-mail you a copy... look into digital rights management. Specifically, if you buy a book on an iPad, can you e-mail a copy to a friend to read? Read up on the Kindle book Loans
, particularly the bit about how it is up to the rights holder to decide if you can.
Book stores can still sell used copies, although the publishers have been trying to shut that down. Where is the electronic version of Abe Books and Albris? They don't exist; the small-time publisher who sells only unencrypted PDFs can't do much, but the big companies are putting Digital Rights Management into their files that pretty much ensures you are playing by their rules unless you are willing to break the law. How many people are willing and able to do that? I bet most don't and will just buy it again if they lose a copy or have to get a new device.
"This really makes me think your IT claims are BS."
Nope, but I keep my work life separate from my private life, so I'm not going to post anything you would consider proof. Let's just say I consult on small to medium businesses as well as actively support them. I am fully versed and support Server 2000 through 2008 R2, and dual-booted with Windows 8. Have been setting up a $30K Hyper-V system with two Dell R610s hooked into a PowerVault 3220 for a client the last couple of days (do you know how long it takes to patch that many servers through a partial T1, even with cloning?) Exchange 2003 through 2010, Barracuda, Sonicwall, Watchguard.. the one Cisco phone system I administered was a P.I.T.A, but their switches and WAPs are easy enough.
Your friend with the 286 e-mail server? Not really that impressive, actually. Go ahead and doubt me. Like I said, I'm willing to wait 5-10 years for the true answer to reveal itself.
Oh, and I'm not espousing an apocalyptic future, but an apathetic future. I believe the majority of our society cares so little about this that it's just going to happen. I know more than a couple of people who have digital cameras but no computer. They shoot the picture until the thing gets full and then they buy a new memory card. If they want a particular photo they take it down to the Walgreens facsimile and print it out, otherwise it just gets tossed in a drawer. Compare that to 20-30 years ago when everything was developed and stored, even if it might not be a good photo. Photos get stored that way, at least until someone cleans out the attic. Photos get lost easier the digital way. You back up your stuff.... most people don't. How many people will CARE to continuously download crackers and keep their files updated, etc.?
The point is that when there are thousands of copies in print, it is harder for a work to disappear. When they're digital...it's much more fragile.