Next-generation sequencing technologies are now being exploited not only to analyse static genomes, but also dynamic transcriptomes in an approach termed RNA-seq. Although these powerful and rapidly evolving technologies have only been available for a couple of years, they are already making substantial contributions to our understanding of genome expression and regulation. Here, we briefly describe technical issues accompanying RNA-seq data generation and analysis, highlighting differences to array-based approaches. We then review recent biological insight gained from applying RNA-seq and related approaches to deeply sample transcriptomes in different cell types or physiological conditions. These approaches are providing fascinating information about transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation, and they are also giving unique insight into the richness of transcript structures and processing on a global scale and at unprecedented resolution.