Back before Christmas the Harvard Business Review published an article on recent research that showed that people valued physical objects for the act of possession more than for the use of said object.
Participants valued a physical copy of The Empire Strikes Back more than a digital copy, for instance, only if they considered the Star Wars series to be films with which they strongly identified. Participants who weren’t Star Wars fans valued physical and digital copies similarly.
This is essentially a nonfunctional element of ownership – valuing something just for having it rather than what you can do with it.
Aside from price, that is the only thing keeping people buying print books over ebooks, which makes it all the more amazing when digital copies supplant physical copies in the marketplace as consumers choose to make the switch.
For example, much of non-fiction has been eaten by the web, and several genres (romance, thriller, SF) have gone digital to varying degrees. These are all categories where the use (reading) is valued more than ownership.
The researchers also helped explain why some creators profit off of memorabilia as much as from selling their content; it’s because fans value the physical good more than the digital, while non-fans do not.