Observation: The thing that I miss most when I get a book in digital but not physical format isn’t the look or the feel or even the smell. It’s the ability to flip through in a quick and intuitive way when I’m looking for a particular page or section.
We don’t generally think of books this way, because culturally we associate them with gaining new knowledge rather than referring to knowledge we already have. But in comparison to (our current forms of) electronic storage, books are very very good at letting you see their entire contents in rapid succession.
One of the things my cbr reader does is give you the option of opening a thumbnail gallery, so you can scroll through and pick a page. Which is absolutely the right idea, but not executed efficiently- the thumbnails are dynamically generated when you ask for them, so loading them for a big file takes all day (and therefore doesn’t help). If the thumbnails were generated and saved when the archive was created or modified, that would be a good solution for comics, where different story moments are portrayed as radically different-looking pages.
For text-only books… you could actually do something similar, I think, but you’d have to change the details to work with the format. A gallery of page thumbnails that represent whole pages in sharply reduced resolution wouldn’t work- if you reduce the resolution enough to show several pages in the space of one, you’ve reduced the text too much to be anything but illegible pixel groupings. Instead you’d want a gallery of page thumbnails that represent part of a page in full or only slightly reduced resolution- a set of all the top right quadrants of pages at 50% zoom, for instance, could show you 16 thumbnails in the size of one page, each in a form you can still read. (Ideally you’d want the option to choose which part of a page you look at when skimming, as well, so that if you can’t spot the thing you’re hunting on any top right quadrant you can switch to skimming bottom right quadrants, or top left ones, or bottom left ones…)