E-books range in price from $ 1 for Dean Wesley Smith’s Star Trek: S.C.E. #1: The Belly of the Beast to double-digit figures
for books such as Susan Sontag’s In America ($ 26), and
they can be downloaded in seconds. E-books, in general, cost the
same or are cheaper than their p-book versions.
—Tara McKelvey, “Easy-on-the-eyes typeface clears screen for better content,” USA Today, August 30, 2000
As plenty of e-book experts (e-xperts?) say, the printed book is a pretty perfect technology. It’s cheap, easy to use, familiar and it needs no batteries. It’s even beautiful. So p-books will exist, for now.
— Marta Salij, “A guide to getting the most out of electronic publishing,” Detroit Free Press, September 7, 2000
Welcome to the wacky world of E-books, where it’s a foregone conclusion that digital tomes will eventually supplant fusty paper “P-books,” but nobody quite knows how to make it happen. Two new devices suggest just how long a haul it could be.
—Stephen Manes, “Gutenberg need not worry — yet,” Forbes, February 8, 1999
As this word shows, the apparently inevitable e-book revolution is forcing the language to change in anticipation. Within a few years, using the word "book" without any kind of modifier will be confusing because people won't know if you're talking about a book printed on paper or one that's printed on electrons (so to speak). So I predict that p-book (or pbook, which I've also seen) will become a common noun that will help us distinguish between the paper and electronic formats.
In linguistic circles, a word such as p-book is known as a retronym: a word formed from an older word by attaching a previously unnecessary modifier. For example, there was a time when the words "guitar," "mail," and "transmission" were unambiguous. However, the advent of the electric guitar, e-mail, and the automatic transmission forced the creation of the retronyms "acoustic guitar," "snail mail," and "manual transmission."