This year was the first where I didn't have to buy or rent more than two books for the whole semester.
For the past two years it had been at least seven. I asked some of my professors if it was a mistake or if they hadn't decided what material they wanted us to use yet. No, it wasn't a mistake much to my surprise. It ended up being that they provided links to readings online that they wanted us to do on our course page.
Transitioning to online readings is something that has been on the rise. I think it is a great idea to use the resources like JSTOR and other online databases that have these works available to professors and students. It utilizes resources that weren't available in the past and allows for the instructors to choose content they find relevant rather than digging through textbooks a student may only open once or twice a semester. As much good as there is to this, I also think that there are some drawbacks to this online approach.
Not having internet access could be an obstacle, although it is uncommon that a household is without in this day and age. There are many coffee shops with free wifi to solve this problem though the connection may not be secure. Having online readings may put them in a centralized spot but if there isn't a way to access them when the internet is down (possible power outage or maybe you forgot your charger) it doesn't bode well if you have to finish them that night.
It gives you free access to hundreds of texts. You can't click links in a book but you can when you read something online, at least you have a greater chance of following the link to learn more. There are ways to search the text for specific words or phrases which would not be possible or as efficient in a physical textbook. This saves a student time and gives them the ability to jump around in a reading and see connections to different sections of the piece.
For some it is hard to look at a screen for hours at a time. The pages of a book may be better and not hurt the eyes as much, but if the pages are glossy, there will be a glare on them from the light which could also lead to lack of focus on the words and more on holding the book at the right angle. Working outside on a computer may not be ideal either. Reading a book during the day is fine on the beach but without wifi and the sun being so intense, you're bound to get glare on the screen and have a hard time reading there too.
Less printed works leads to smaller numbers of texts being printed and sold which may hurt an author or seller, but it helps those who are required to buy and read them have easy, free access. I think that holding a book and turning the page is satisfying, the sound and smell of a physical text is unique and I don't want to end up in a world where we don't have anyone printing new works.
While links to outside sources are helpful, if the link doesn't work or the material was taken down they won't be beneficial at all. Finding sources is as easy as clicking a few keys and opening a new tab on which to put the related information. Sometimes a link will not work because the material was changed or the domain is different.
Links in the text aren't your only problem. The main difficulty I see coming from this is the ease of which people can open a new tab and start searching for other things. You are using the internet for homework. Maybe setting a lock could be an option so you can't be tempted by the other applications on your computer while trying to study.
Overall, I think personal preference is the deciding factor as to whether or not a new book-less system would work for you as an individual. I do think that it is beneficial to have online text access and if need be you could always print the necessary pages and have a hard copy to refer to.