I posted a version of this comment on the blog of Joe Konrath, indie author and ebook guru, in response to his post about predictions for the future of publishing.
I predict that paper will go the way of vinyl- which means it’ll never die.
Go to any decent sized record shop and you’ll still see 7″ and 12″ pressings of new and recent releases. There are record fairs for collectors of old vinyl. I work for a company which sells hifi and AV (audiovisual) kit. In amongst all the 55″ 3D flatscreens and 9.2 channel, dozen format home cinema systems we still list turntables and related equipment. Most of these record players look nothing like your old gramophone, with new materials and ever more precision in their construction. Not only do some people swear they sound better but next to the kit bristling with features they do have an understated beauty.
Whilst ebooks will kill, or at least seriously injure, the plain words on paper, bread and butter end of publishing I predict a rise in books as beautiful objects. My Kindle’s convenient, and you can do some neat stuff with illustrations on an ipad, but there’s a joy to a big book on glossy paper. Add tipped in holograms, embossing etc. and I see what you might call coffee table books turned up to 11. There are also experiments to be done with the medium of words and pictures on paper, such as the recent SVK comic by Warren Ellis and Matt “D’Israeli” Booker which had elements printed in ink that only showed up when you shone the included UV torch at the page. There’ll be some successful publishers that do well from “value added” books, though they’ll probably not be one of the current big guys.
Before you start throwing stones at the Luddite can I just add that, otherwise, I think Joe’s predictions are close to the mark. I’ve been writing for ebooks since about this time last year when I discovered Brits could publish on the Kindle. The backlist and the sales are growing slower than I’d like, but I’m working on the basis that once it’s up it’s there forever and everything else just builds on it. I predict that I’ll have my first $100 month by Easter and will be looking at the prospect of $100 weeks by this time next year.