SFSignal, a website for the science fiction publishing industry, asks a number of writers, editors, critics and publishers "What will the publishing industry look like after 10 more years of advancing technology?" The answers are a mix of honest forthrightness about the unreliability of long-term predictions, grim business reality, and fascinating insight about the complimentary nature and economics of print and electronic publishing. Here's writer Tim Pratt:
More authors will experiment with self-publishing, as the barrier to entry for doing so with e-books is comparatively low. Some will have success with that; lots of others won't. Amazon.com and perhaps other purveyors of online books will increasingly attempt to take on the role of publishers, "curating" e-book collections. I don't expect publishing as we know it to disappear, by any means, but the field is going to become crowded by self-publishing -- some of it quite good -- and weird hybrids, and new companies springing up to fill whatever inevitable gaps are left by the relatively slow-moving major publishers.
It will likely get harder for writers to make a living doing nothing but writing fiction... but most writers I know don't make a living exclusively writing fiction anyway. We'll have to explore new methods: direct appeals to readers, weird limited editions with interesting extras, patrons, corporate sponsorship, kickstarter fundraisers in lieu of novel advances -- who knows.
Those are pretty cautious guesses, I know, but hey, science fiction writers are generally crap at predicting the future. (And I'm mostly a fantasy writer!) In ten years, the world could be unimaginably weird. I certainly hope it will be. But I'm sure I'll still be reading books, even if they don't look much like the books I grew up with.
(Image: Government Printing Office Building Number Four Jackson Alley Cast Concrete Presswork Bas Relief (Washington, DC), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from takomabibelot's photostream)
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