I'm not sure about the rest of the world but I've not found a need for any CD or DVD media for a long time now. Not sure how long exactly but its been some years. I was perfectly happy with the lack of need for optical media until I had to install the new Ubuntu 10.10 on my home desktop and my kids netbooks. The CD/DVD burner on my desktop has been acting wacky and just making coasters. As you may know, many netbooks don't even come with a optical drive. The most logical alternative? Thumbdrives.
To start I found a 2gb thumbdrive I had laying around somewhere and went to work on installing my new and shiny Ubuntu operating system. Then I quickly realized that I had no idea where to start for making bootable iso's for thumbdrives. Great thing about Ubuntu is that most of what I've ever needed has been easily found right in the menu already installed or in the Software Center. But oddly enough I couldn't find an easy way to install Ubuntu from a thumbdrive within Ubuntu.
To help you along if you're having trouble getting your favorite Linux install on to a thumbdrive and actually boot I highly recommend Unetbootin. It's usable in Windows or Linux and absolutely makes creating bootable install drive easy as a couple clicks.
I'm not going to go into a step by step on how to use this because I think it's pretty self explanatory but if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments.
Unetbootin makes creating a Linux bootable drive simple. With UNetbootin you don't even have to download your Linux distribution of choice first. You are able to select your distribution of choice and the version at the top. Once that's done you then choose the "Diskimage" radio button. If your thumbdrive is being properly recognized you'll see it listed at the bottom next to "Drive". From here you simply hit okay and that's it.
If you prefer or have an iso already downloaded, you can simply browse to it by clicking the button marked "...". You want to choose the first of the three "..." buttons. Choose your drive from the dropdown box labeled "Drive" and hit OK. Really doesn't get any easier then this.
I've had varying degrees of success previously trying to make boot drives but UNetbootin is by far the easiest and most consistent way of going about this.