Once the ebook has wreaked Regan-cum-Bush-level nukular harm on the ecosystem of literature, what will writing and publishing be like? Turns out the paper and cloth book may become a morlock offshoot species.
The effect this will have on publishing will be enormous. The job of today’s publisher is essentially to edit, pay and arrange for the printing, distribution of books, and market them. In an ebook world, printing goes out the window and readers essentially act as their own distributors. This leaves publishing companies with only their editorial and marketing wings. Freed from the crippling costs of book manufacture, storage, and distribution, it is easy to imagine a situation in which small publishers can compete with larger houses on the basis of the quality of their work, instead of the size of their cash reserves.
Or perhaps writers will simply avoid these gatekeepers no matter what their size and publish their own work, either as individuals or in publishing co-ops of their own making, thus ending publishing as we know it. Or maybe none of this will happen, because early in this book revolution, large companies will have grabbed control of the reading devices and databases so that everyone still has to play by the rules they set down.
With regard to the concept of the book itself, the changes could be even more sweeping. People seem to forget that the idea of a book being bound pieces of paper is a fairly new one – and there is absolutely no reason to think that it is the evolutionary endpoint for storing the written word. It is also easy to overlook how this format has affected the way humans write. Most of today’s forms of written storytelling – the novel, the poem, the short story, and the essay – have evolved in lock-step with the bound-paper book.
Sweet. I can’t wait to unleash my hideous subterranean poetry on the blue-eyed robe-wearers above. Of course, I plan on preserving their culture after I destroy it, perhaps by pressing them like leaves between the pages of my barbaric idea-storage devices.